Eickhoff gets back on track against former club

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“Walking through here again, it was very emotional for me,” he said after Tuesday night’s 5-1 loss to the Rangers.

Texas selected Eickhoff in the 15th round of the 2011 Draft. He pitched in the Rangers’ organization through July 2015, when Texas included him in the Cole Hamels trade with the Phillies. Eickhoff allowed seven hits, three runs (two earned) and two walks and struck out eight in six innings Tuesday against many of his former teammates, including Nomar Mazara, Rougned Odor and Joey Gallo.

“It was pretty fun to face him,” Odor said. “Great person, great guy.”

“It definitely wasn’t just another start,” Eickhoff said. “Throwing in front of Nolan Ryan [in 2011], it was definitely a very special thing for me. I owe a lot to these guys, from [Rangers general manager] Jon Daniels to coaches to trainers. I’m just very humbled and appreciative of that.”

Eickhoff, 26, could appreciate his effort Tuesday, too. He was 0-2 with an 8.40 ERA in his previous three starts, allowing 14 earned runs in 15 innings. It was the first time in his 49-start career he had struggled over a multi-start stretch. He had posted a 3.36 ERA in his first 45 starts, never allowing four or more runs in back-to-back starts. Then he allowed four or more runs in three consecutive starts.

A change in his mechanics — he stood taller on the mound, allowing him to get a better angle on the ball — contributed to his improved effort Tuesday.

“Obviously I made a couple mistakes there, but for 90 percent of the time, I felt like I was executing pitches and getting back to where I need to be,” Eickhoff said.

Eickhoff had been back to Globe Life Park since that workout in 2011, but never to pitch. No wonder those memories swept over him.

He still remembers Ryan standing with his arms crossed to the right of home plate, watching every pitch.

Eickhoff finished his bullpen session and stepped into the dugout to change out of his spikes. He said he got an urge to approach Ryan, shake his hand and thank him for the opportunity before he drove back to Indiana.

So he did.

“I can’t remember if I looked him in the eye or not, but it was a special moment,” he said.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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