A busy day for the Phillies on Tuesday — a doubleheader against the Marlins, preceded by a series of pitching moves.
Right-hander Vince Velasquez was placed on the 60-day disabled list after tests revealed a blood flow issue in his pitching arm that has caused numbness and bruising in his right middle finger. He will have a surgical procedure this week and is expected to make a full recovery in time for spring training.
Right-hander Zach Eflin was placed on the 10-day disabled list with shoulder soreness.
Right-hander Nick Pivetta was added from Triple A as the 26th man for the doubleheader. He will start the nightcap (see game notes).
Right-handed reliever Yacksel Rios was brought up from Triple A to help in the bullpen.
Right-hander Mark Leiter Jr., who has bounced between the rotation and the bullpen, is back in the rotation and will start on Wednesday.
And finally, right-hander Jake Thompson is expected to come up from Triple A to pitch on Thursday, allowing Jerad Eickhoff, whose fastball velocity has been down a tick, an extra day between starts.
The big news here is Velasquez and his condition. The hard-throwing pitcher came to the Phillies in general manager Matt Klentak's first significant trade and was pegged as a staff building block. However, his two seasons with the Phillies have been plagued by inconsistency and injury. He missed time last year with a biceps strain and again this season with an elbow strain before exiting his start on Aug. 10 with numbness in his right middle finger.
According to Klentak, the discomfort is caused by an issue in the area of Velasquez' armpit, and the pitcher will have a "small procedure that will alleviate the issue," and allow "the blood flow to be normal again to his fingers."
Velasquez, 25, does not have thoracic outlet syndrome, a problem that has affected some pitchers.
The recuperation time for Velasquez will be six to eight weeks and he will continue to work as a starting pitcher in spring training.
"We do still think that Vince possesses all the ingredients to be a top-notch major league starter," Klentak said. "We have to see how the rest of the organization aligns around him. We’ll see what the offseason brings us as far as additional acquisitions are concerned but the hope would be that Vince would still be a starter.
"Every time he pitches we see that big fastball that generates swings and misses at an elite rate particularly when it’s up in the zone. As long as we keep seeing that, we know this guy can be an impact major league pitcher. He’s had his fair share of setbacks throughout the year and throughout his professional career, but we still believe really strongly in his future."
Eflin exited his last start with discomfort behind his right shoulder. It is his second trip to the DL this season. He missed time earlier with an elbow issue. As ominous as two trips to the DL with arm problems sounds, the Phils don't sound overly concerned.
"He’s feeling better every day," Klentak said. "We’re hoping that this will be a minimal DL stint."
Klentak emphasized that Eickhoff is healthy, despite the drop in velocity.
"Definitely healthy and he’s learning to mix pitches and change speeds," Klentak said. "Eickhoff, even throwing a few miles an hour less, when he’s locating and changing speeds is still very effective. So that’s what he’s learning right now."
Klentak said Eickhoff's extra day between starts had nothing to do with health or workload.
"It had a lot to do with coming out of a doubleheader and where we would slot Thompson in," he said. "Thompson’s day is actually (Wednesday) and rather than pushing him back two, or pushing him to Friday, we want to push him back one and push Eick back one. It was kind of cleaner that way."