Phillies

Your worst fears about Vince Velasquez and the Phillies' bullpen came true Sunday

Your worst fears about Vince Velasquez and the Phillies' bullpen came true Sunday

Your worst fears about Vince Velasquez and the Phillies' bullpen came true Sunday.

Both were bad in an ugly 11-6 loss to the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.

And so the Phillies, who cannot afford a slow start in this 60-game sprint, have lost their season-opening series and are 1-2 heading into a four-game home-and-home series with the New York Yankees, a team with World Series or bust aspirations.

Gulp.

Jake Arrieta will make his first start of the season Monday night at Citizens Bank Park against Yankees lefty J.A. Happ.

Zach Eflin gets the ball Tuesday night against Gerrit Cole.

OH, VINNY

All of those good vibes that Velasquez generated in summer camp disappeared when he blew a 4-0 lead in the second inning. He hit a batter, walked a batter, gave up a single, a solo homer and a three-run homer in the inning.

Velasquez lasted just three innings. He threw 60 pitches, only 36 of which were strikes. His four-seam fastball averaged 92.7 mph, down from 94.5 last season.

Velasquez won a spot in the rotation with a strong showing in recent weeks, but he needed to continue to pitch well — in games that count — to hold on to his job, especially in a season where every game is magnified.

Now you have to wonder if he'll make his next start, which is scheduled for Friday against the Blue Jays in wherever the Blue Jays are going to play their games.

Top prospect Spencer Howard pitched in an intrasquad game at Lehigh Valley on Sunday so he's lined up to take Velasquez' spot if management decides to go that way.

'PEN PROBLEMS

Velasquez did his team no favors by squandering an early lead and losing the momentum. His poor outing also put the ball into the hands of the bullpen early in the game and everyone knows the 'pen is this team's weakness.

Cole Irvin, Reggie McClain and Nick Pivetta picked up 5⅓ innings. They were tagged for nine hits — including two homers, two triples and a double — and seven runs. 

THE OFFENSE

It produced 12 hits and six runs. That's enough to win on a lot of nights. But not this one.

The Phils hit for the cycle in the first inning. Adam Haseley singled, Rhys Hoskins doubled and Bryce Harper smacked a three-run homer. Before the inning was over, Jay Bruce tripled in a run.

The Phils scored just two runs the rest of the game. They had bases loaded and one out in the fifth and sixth innings and both times got nothing. They also left the bases loaded in the eighth and two on in the ninth.

In all, the Phils were 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position and they stranded 14 men.

MARLINS PROBLEMS

The Marlins continue to give the Phillies fits.

Last year, the Marlins lost 105 games, most in the NL, but they still managed to win 10 of 19 against the Phillies. That cost the Phillies a winning season and maybe a shot at the postseason because the rest of the NL East cleaned up on the Marlins.

Now, the Phils are 1-2 against the Marlins in the new season.

Making the series loss even more difficult to swallow is that the Marlins were missing five key players overall, and four regulars, because of COVID protocols. The Marlins did not provide further specifics.

Scheduled starting pitcher Jose Ureña was scratched a few hours before the game. The Marlins did not say why. Robert Dugger made the start for Miami. It was his eighth as a major leaguer. 

Dugger allowed five runs in 3⅓ innings. The Marlins' bullpen gave up just one run the rest of the way and their hitters beat up the Phillies' bullpen.

Seven of the Marlins' 12 hits on the day were for extra bases.

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Jake Arrieta ready to face Yankees on 357 days rest — sort of

Jake Arrieta ready to face Yankees on 357 days rest — sort of

Eight days shy of a year after his last big-league start, Jake Arrieta gets the ball for the Phillies in Yankee Stadium on Monday night.

Arrieta will oppose Yankees ace Gerrit Cole as the Phillies restart their season eight days after their last game.

Since his last start, August 11, 2019 in San Francisco, Arrieta has had elbow surgery, gone through a complete rehab, pitched in spring training, endured a shutdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic, ramped up during July summer camp and watched his team play three games then shut down again after the Miami Marlins suffered an outbreak of the virus last weekend at Citizens Bank Park.

With the ballpark closed much of the week, Arrieta and teammate Tommy Hunter found a field in South Jersey and kept their arms loose. Arrieta revved his engines in a workout at Citizens Bank Park on Sunday and believes he can throw 85-plus pitches in his long-awaited season debut Monday night.

"It feels great to finally have a start lined up," he said. "It's been frustrating, but at the same time, I haven't been dwelling on that too much because we are all in a really tough situation having to deal with so many different factors that have kind of derailed the beginning of our season. We knew these were going to be tough times and we're doing the best we can to stay ready.

"I've thrown in a few (simulated) games, I've thrown a bunch of bullpens, extended bullpens to keep the pitch count pretty high. But it's really tough to do unless you're in real-game situations. But I'm in a good spot. I'm going to be able to give my team what we need. I'm really looking forward to getting into a real game finally.

"Physically, I feel pretty close to midseason form as far as the body. There's really no aches and pains, which is something you're accustomed to near midseason. So the body feels pretty fresh, and the feel of all my stuff is there."

The Phillies have yet to announce who will follow Arrieta in the rotation. As if the Phils haven't been through enough with seven postponements, bad weather is steaming up the coast from the south and that could cause more problems with scheduling. Even if Mother Nature cooperates, the Phillies would have to play 57 games in 56 days to play their full 60-game season.

"These are weird times as you know," Arrieta said. "Other teams have been able to play more games than us and haven't been affected schedule-wise as much as we have, but we're not going to complain about it. We can't make any excuses. 

"It would seem that we are at a disadvantage, not being able to play pretty much every day like we're accustomed to. But if you lean too much on that, it could creep into your mind too heavily and could most certainly affect your performance."

The season is just 11 days old and already 33 games around Major League Baseball have been postponed because of COVID-19 concerns. Nonetheless, MLB and the players union remain committed to pushing on with the 60-game season. But given all these starts, stops and postponements, one has to wonder if the season can be pulled off. One has to wonder if there will be a breaking point for the players or the league if the postponements continue to mount.

"I think that we're a ways away from that, based on all the knowledge and the information that I've gathered through the union and through MLB," Arrieta said. "MLB wants to do everything in their power to get this season completed and we do as well. We're committed to doing that.

"I want to see the postseason happen and not have to shut this thing down for good. That would be bad for a lot of reasons. The fans want to see baseball. We want to play. We're going to follow protocols and do everything we can to make sure that happens."

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Amid potentially damaging layoff, is Phillies skipper Joe Girardi angry with Miami Marlins?

Amid potentially damaging layoff, is Phillies skipper Joe Girardi angry with Miami Marlins?

Phillies manager Joe Girardi will set a starting pitching rotation for his team's restart after Sunday's workout.

The Phillies held just their second workout since last weekend Saturday at Citizens Bank Park. Girardi did not name his rotation after that workout because he and pitching coach Bryan Price were still gauging the readiness of arms amid all the starts and stops of this COVID-marred 2020 season. The Phillies still have two starting pitchers, Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin, who have yet to throw a pitch in official game action and the top two of Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler will be looking at nine and eight days between starts, respectively, by the time the Phillies resume play against the New York Yankees on Monday night.

On top of this, Phillies hitters haven't seen live pitching with any regularity for the last week.

Good luck in the Bronx. Gerrit Cole could pitch Monday if the Yankees stay on rotation.

"I give our pitchers credit," said Girardi, who, at least publicly, has stayed amazingly upbeat during a trying time. "They've kept up trying to do as much as they could by themselves. I've heard guys throwing baseballs against mattresses and brick walls on the outside of their homes and wherever they are. It's challenging, but we knew that it would be coming into the season. We knew that we had to be somewhat prepared for anything and I think our guys have done a pretty good job of handling that.

"We have to be a little bit cautious because for some of these guys, we were building them up and they were kind of put on hold. Now you have concerns about going back-to-back with relievers for the first time after they were put on hold for a while. I think we'll be cautious a little bit in the beginning. Our starters won't be up to where other teams' starters are that have made two starts and some will be coming up on their third start pretty soon. Our starters won't be there and we just have to deal with it."

Without saying it explicitly, Girardi articulated a flaw in the competitive integrity of this 60-game season. The Phillies played their first three games then, through no fault of their own, were shut down for more than a week because they came into contact with a team that suffered an outbreak of COVID-19. Now, the Phillies will have to somehow shoehorn 57 games into 56 days. There have been multiple reports that some Marlins players ignored MLB protocols for social distancing before playing in Philadelphia last weekend. No Phillies players have tested positive, but the Phils are still paying a price.

Are Phillies players angry at the Marlins?

"I haven't really heard any complaints from our guys, but understand that we don't sit around and talk like we used to. That's just not what we do," Girardi said. "So when we do get a chance, we're pretty much talking about baseball only. I have not heard it, so I can't really tell you exactly how the players feel. I do know that they want to play and they're frustrated that we're not playing right now. They're not blaming anyone, but they want to play. That's what we do. I think our players are handling this great."

How about Girardi? He said he was aware of the reports that the Marlins did not take COVID protocols seriously. He spends significant time every day stressing the importance of protocols to his players. He must be ticked off at the Marlins, right?

"No," Girardi said. "They had one player who had it and then they traveled and they were on buses and planes and no one knew. For me to judge — I could walk in one day and have COVID here and not know it and spread it around."

Girardi said he communicated with some members of the Marlins organization and those people felt "a real sense of guilt and remorse."

Focusing on his own club, Girardi said, "The fortunate thing is it did not spread around our clubhouse. So we just have to make sure our guys are prepared to play Monday and physically they're ready to go. That's my biggest concern."

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