DECISION TIME

Phils decide on Howard-Velasquez starter, relief roles

DECISION TIME
Spencer Howard, throwing a pitch during his MLB debut.

The Phillies will start rookie right-hander Spencer Howard in Thursday night’s series finale against the Washington Nationals.

He’s in the rotation.

And that means Vince Velasquez is out.

For now.

The Phillies have four doubleheaders next month so Velasquez will be needed as a starter again, but for now he will work out of the bullpen.

“We would definitely use him long,” manager Joe Girardi said. “If we needed him short, I would not be afraid to do that either.

“We have to keep him built up and make sure his pitch count stays high because we have all kinds of doubleheaders coming up and we’ll need him.”

Velasquez has long preferred to start, but his inconsistency in the rotation makes it difficult to commit to him over Howard, who team officials envision taking a regular turn for years to come.

Girardi said Velasquez was disappointed to learn he was headed to the ‘pen.

“That’s to be expected with anyone,” Girardi said. “But Vince said he’s ready to do whatever it takes. He’s a team guy.”

Velasquez is one of the Phils’ best athletes. Girardi said it would not be out of the question that he would use Velasquez as a pinch runner or on defense in a pinch. So Velasquez will have his spikes on even on nights when he might not be available out of the bullpen.

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