MILWAUKEE — Vince Velasquez did his best Emily Litella impersonation Friday.
You remember the old Gilda Radner Saturday Night Live skit, right?
(If you don’t remember it, or are too young to, break out the ol’ Googler and type in the words ‘Emily Litella violins.’ Real humor. Still hilarious after all these years.)
Anyway, the Phillies activated Velasquez from the injured list and assigned him to the bullpen before Friday night’s game against the Brewers.
Three hours before the game, Velasquez was asked for comment about the move. He clearly was not pleased, saying he did not believe he should have lost his spot in the starting rotation after a couple of poor starts and a brief trip to the IL.
“I only had two bad starts,” Velasquez said. “I guess if they were going to come down to that decision and that I didn’t do my job in those two starts, it sucks. There’s still a lot of room for improvement. I started out pretty hot and for them to decide after two starts that I should be in the bullpen is kind of a bummer.”
Velasquez also seemed miffed with the way the message was delivered to him.
“Just pretty much, ‘You’re activated. Welcome back. You’re going to sit in the bullpen,’“ he said.
He added that he would like to have gotten more clarity on his role because he still hoped to fill a starter’s role on Tuesday — and would be disappointed if he didn’t.
About an hour after venting to reporters in the clubhouse, Velasquez sought out the same reporters in the dugout and asked if he could clarify his remarks.
Enter Emily Litella.
The pitcher had just met with manager Gabe Kapler and hashed out a few things. He felt better now.
“Kap and I, we're kind of on the same page now,” Velasquez said. “Got some things off my shoulder and kind of just know what my role is now. [Previously], I didn't know. Everything was kind of up in the air. I was clueless. I didn't know what was going on. I was just kind of guessing and now it seemed like we got on the same page in general.”
Depending on what happens this weekend in Milwaukee, Velasquez could still end up starting Tuesday. Or Nick Pivetta could get the nod.
In his second meeting with reporters, Velasquez amended his remarks and said he would not be disappointed if he did not start Tuesday.
“We kind of squashed that,” he said. “Again, I've done relieving before. I've done both so I know what it entails. I'm actually pretty all right with it at this point.”
Going with Pivetta on Tuesday could be read as an indication that the team is beginning to transition Velasquez to the bullpen. The idea has been talked about for a couple of years and it seems as if the time has come. Kapler seems intrigued by the idea and said he would not hesitate to use Velasquez’s power arm in one-to-two-inning bursts this weekend, even in high-leverage situations.
“Sometimes it’s, ‘Let’s find out,’“ Kapler said. “These guys are not made of glass. They’re strong athletes. Sometimes you just try to win the game with the best pieces you have.”
Kapler stressed that there was still an unknown in using Velasquez out of the ‘pen — and that’s how will his body bounce back.
Kapler met with reporters before Velasquez spoke with reporters Friday. The manager’s telling of the details of informing Velasquez of the move to the bullpen was different than the pitcher’s.
“He was especially comfortable with the idea last night,” Kapler said during his meeting with reporters shortly after the clubhouse opened Friday afternoon. "[Pitching coach] Chris Young and I had a little text message conversation with him where he seemed excited when we told him he was officially going to be activated today and available, and I had an additional conversation with him today to kind of go through the possibilities again. He seems not just excited but on board. I don’t think we’re ever going to get to that place where he feels ‘I’m not still potentially a starting pitcher.’ However, he was a team player, to say the least.”
It took a little hissing and moaning from Velasquez and another meeting with the skipper, but eventually the pitcher got on board with the plan.
Tune in to Weekend Update for Emily Litella’s take on the matter.
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