CINCINNATI — Gabe Kapler and Vince Velasquez agreed on one thing.
That was the word they both used.
Velasquez was not pleased about being lifted from his start after three innings Tuesday night. The right-hander had hardly been economical with his pitches and Kapler did not think he “had his best stuff.” But that was not the reason Velasquez was lifted with a 2-1 lead. He was lifted because Kapler saw an opportunity to get some runs so he went to his bench and had Logan Morrison hit for Velasquez with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the fourth inning.
Morrison grounded into a double play. The Phillies eventually won the game, 6-2.
Kapler knew Velasquez was frustrated with the quick hook so he invited the pitcher into his office for a little air-clearing session Wednesday afternoon.
Both sides said the chat went extremely well.
Kapler explained that it’s September, that the Phillies are in a playoff chase and he’s going to be aggressive using every inch of his expanded roster.
Velasquez said he understood.
“I mean, it just sucks,” Velasquez said. “If you put yourself in my shoes you wouldn’t want to go three innings, right? I mean, there is some frustration there. But again, you have to understand the big picture and the big picture is winning. Bottom line.
“If there’s a situation that we need to capitalize on runs, he’s going to go for it. He’s going to put the best situation out there to win ballgames. And that’s his job as a manager.”
Kapler had no problem with Velasquez’s initial frustration and he welcomed the chance to hear out the pitcher.
“Vince is very open to having those kind of conversations,” Kapler said. “He always responds well to them. I think the coolest thing about chats like that is they’re learning experiences for both of us. I learn what’s on his mind, he learns what’s on mine. We dive a little bit deeper and that’s kind of relationships in general. Rather than sweeping things under the rug, you get them out in the open and talk about them right away and you can move on to your next steps in the day.”
Kapler said he knew the frustration that Velasquez felt. During the meeting, he told Velasquez of times during his playing career when he was called out of the on-deck circle and replaced by a pinch-hitter.
“One thing I shared with Vince is that when you don’t get an opportunity that you really want, somebody else is getting an opportunity that they really want,” Kapler said.
Kapler added that through experiences of personal disappointment, “You learn that your manager is trying to get what he perceives to be a marginal upgrade. It never stops sucking, but you get it, and you become more aware of it. You have to separate what we feel is sensible from the emotion of the moment for players and I completely understand that.”
Kapler’s main message to Velasquez was that, despite what happened Tuesday night, he had confidence in the pitcher.
“The ultimate demonstration of that is he’s going to start Sunday for us in a really big game [against the Mets]," Kapler said.
“When you hit for a guy early in a bases-loaded situation with a great weapon off the bench with a full bullpen in September, it’s not an indication that we don’t feel confident in somebody. It’s an indication that we have the kind of roster that can support a decision like that.”
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