Phillies

Vince Velasquez 'disappointed' by Astros’ scandal, ready to 'click' in Phillies’ rotation

Vince Velasquez 'disappointed' by Astros’ scandal, ready to 'click' in Phillies’ rotation

Vince Velasquez broke into the majors with the Houston Astros in 2015. His manager was A.J. Hinch. Jeff Luhnow was the general manager.

You know where this is going.

“I never saw anything,” Velasquez said Monday. “A lot of people have asked me, but I wasn’t there when it happened.

“It was shocking to hear about. And a little bit disappointing.”

The Astros were found to have used an illicit sign stealing scheme during their 2017 World Series championship season. Major League Baseball last week suspended Hinch and Luhnow for the 2020 season and Houston ownership followed up by firing both men. The explosive issue also cost Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran their jobs as managers of the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets, respectively. Cora was the Astros’ bench coach, and a mastermind of the scheme, in 2017, and Beltran was a player on the team.

Velasquez pitched in just 19 games for the Astros in 2015. He was traded to the Phillies in December of that year.

Pitchers and catchers have always been cognizant of changing their signs and varying their sequences in running through signs, especially when there is a runner on second base, to combat sign stealing. Velasquez predicted that pitchers and catchers will be even more diligent in light of the Astros' scandal.

“Now, we have to be more observant of what we’re doing,” he said. “I think it’s going to be part of the discussion [in spring training.] You have to learn to protect yourself.”

Velasquez is spending the week in Philadelphia helping the team with some promotional work. (He even plans to throw a couple of bullpen sessions in the cages at Citizens Bank Park.) On Monday, Velasquez and teammate Roman Quinn joined former Phillies Milt Thompson and Mickey Morandini at a youth instructional clinic at the Ryan Howard Training Center in South Philadelphia. Forty-five young players affiliated with the Phillies/MLB Urban Youth Academy and RBI program showed up a cold January day to get a head start on the season and some tips from the Phillies players past and present.

Quinn missed significant time last season with a torn groin muscle, the latest in a series of injuries that has robbed the exciting outfielder of playing time in his career. He has made changes to his offseason conditioning program and believes he can stay healthy in 2020 and make a run at the Phillies’ starting centerfield job. As it stands right now, he will battle Adam Haseley for the job in camp.

“I trust my abilities and I know if I’m healthy then it’s hard to keep me out of the lineup,” Quinn said.

Like Quinn, Velasquez will be in a spring-training battle.

The top four spots in the Phillies’ rotation are set with Aaron Nola, Zach Wheeler, Zach Eflin and Jake Arrieta. Velasquez will compete with Nick Pivetta for the fifth spot in the rotation. The loser of the competition will not necessarily be out of a job as the Phillies need bullpen help and one of the two could end up there.

Velasquez knows where he wants to be.

“I can play any role, but I want to start,” the 27-year-old right-hander said. “I want to be in the rotation. I want to be in that playoff run and I want to be that guy for that game.

“I know I have a job to earn. That’s my main focus. Battling.”

Velasquez, as Phillies fans know by now, is blessed with a tremendous arm. However, he has struggled to put his talents together and arrive at that place known as consistency. He runs high pitch counts and fails to get through the middle of games. He averaged just 4 2/3 innings in his 23 starts last season.

Velasquez knows it’s time for him to pitch deeper into games and he says, “I want that bad.” He has already established a telephone/text/video relationship with new pitching coach Bryan Price in hopes of picking up some keys to doing that.

“We’re in communication,” Velasquez said. “I’ve spoken to him a number of times and sent him videos of some of my bullpens.”

Velasquez avoided salary arbitration and will make $3.6 million this season. As his price tag goes up, so do expectations and the impatience of team officials. He might not be around at this time next season if he doesn’t produce in 2020.

“I’m very optimistic this is the year it clicks,” Velasquez said. “I know I’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but I feel like I’m starting to figure a lot of things out. A lot of people tend to figure things out after two or three years in the major leagues and I think this is that time for me to put all the pieces together.

“My time is due. It’s really come down to that point where I need to plug in all the pieces.”

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Phillies Talk podcast: Opinions on Bryce Harper after a year in Phillies pinstripes

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Phillies Talk podcast: Opinions on Bryce Harper after a year in Phillies pinstripes

Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman got together for a lil' Phillies Talk on the one-year anniversary of the Bryce Harper signing. Aside from their opinions and big-picture takeaways from Harper's first year with the Phillies, the guys discussed Zack Wheeler's imminent debut, Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen.

• Zack Wheeler debuts Saturday — what are we looking for?

• Some Phillies hitters thrilled to not have to face Wheeler anymore.

• Why so much Jean Segura at 3B early in camp?

• Defensive upgrades in the infield.

• Where is Andrew McCutchen? How does the knee look?

• Recalling the buzz in Phillies camp when Harper signed.

• The overlooked aspect of Harper's first season in Philly.

• How many Phillies records can Harper set?

• Honesty from J.T. Realmuto about Phillies pitchers, coaching changes and disrespect from the outside.

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A way-too-early look at how high Bryce Harper could climb on Phillies all-time leaderboards

A way-too-early look at how high Bryce Harper could climb on Phillies all-time leaderboards

Can you believe it’s been a year since the Phillies signed Bryce Harper?

In most years, the final day of February will be the anniversary. Not 2020 because it’s a leap year, but here we are on Feb. 28, some 365 days after the afternoon splash that left Phillies fans delirious for months. 

Harper had a strong first year with the Phils. An overlooked component of it was his durability. He played in 157 games, the second most of his career. The Phillies will need him to be on the field that much to reach their ultimate destination. Perhaps at some point during his contract the rest of the roster will be good enough to contend even if he’s at less than 100%, but that time isn’t now.

Days left

Today marks 365 days down and 4,268 to go in Harper’s Phillies contract.

That 4,268 figure could be off by a few days but you get the point. It assumes the 2031 World Series ends on Halloween.

Dingers

Harper enters 2020 with 219 career home runs — averages of 27 per season and 33 per 162 games.

If he averages just over 35 home runs for the next eight seasons, he would hit his 500th home run toward the end of the 2027 season. Factoring in future time missed to injury and the fact that so far, he’s exceeded 35 only in his 2015 MVP season, 2028 is more realistic. Maybe even 2029.

Schmidt more than safe

Harper could hit 35 homers every year for all 13 years with the Phillies and still be 93 shy of Mike Schmidt.

Harper does have a decent chance to reach second on the Phillies’ all-time list. Ryan Howard occupies that spot with 382. Harper would need to average 29 longballs a year over the next dozen to surpass The Big Piece.

Schmidt had 11 seasons of 35+ home runs. No other Phillie had five. Harper is a safe bet to do so. 

Howard had four, Chuck Klein three, and Greg Luzinski and Jim Thome had two. 

The only other 35-homer seasons in Phillies history belong to Harper, Jayson Werth (2009), Pat Burrell (2002), Dick Allen (1966) and Cy Williams (1923).

Schmidt averaged 68 extra-base hits and 102 walks per 162 games in his career. 

Harper has averaged 69 extra-base hits and 102 walks per 162 games in his.

Which Phillies records could Harper set?

This should show how difficult it is to set franchise records when you don’t begin your career with that franchise. The longevity of Schmidt (18 seasons) and Jimmy Rollins (15) will make it difficult for Harper to reach higher than second in several categories. 

Harper would need to average just over 117 walks per season to break Schmidt’s mark. Highly unlikely.

Doubles? Harper hit 36 in 2019. He would need to average 37 a year over the next 12 to break Jimmy Rollins’ mark of 479. 

He’d need 180 hits per season to surpass Rollins. 

Sifting through careers, the best chance at a big offensive Phillies record for Harper would be seasons with 100+ RBI. He had 114 last year. Schmidt had the most seasons in Phillies history of at least 100 RBI with nine. Can Harper do it nine more times in 12 years?

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