Vince Velasquez wouldn't mind being a closer someday, but where does he fit now?

Vince Velasquez wouldn't mind being a closer someday, but where does he fit now?

CHICAGO — Vince Velasquez threw 30 pitches from a bullpen mound at Wrigley Field on Wednesday.

“Full bore, no setbacks, no pullbacks, no whoas,” he said. “I threw all my pitches with intensity.”

Velasquez believes he is fully recovered from the sore elbow that landed him on the injured list two weeks ago, and the team agrees that he is in good health.

So what’s next?

Does he throw another bullpen session?

Does he go out on a minor-league rehab start?

Does he get optioned to Triple A?

Does he join the bullpen?

Does he go right back into the starting rotation?

Velasquez believes he belongs back in the rotation, but there’s been a development there. Lefty Cole Irvin has come up from the minors and pitched well. He was poised to make his third start Wednesday night in Wrigley Field and another good outing would certainly ensure his getting another start. When you have a hot hand, you ride it.

For the record, manager Gabe Kapler does not believe Velasquez has the right to simply retake his spot in the rotation once he’s ready to go.

“I don’t really see it that way,” Kapler said. “I don’t see it as a right. I see it as what’s best for the Phillies. If it’s best that he come back and rejoin the rotation, then he will. And if what’s best for the Phillies is for Jerad Eickhoff and Cole Irvin to continue to take down starts and utilize Vinny in some other fashion, that’s what we’ll do. We’ll always put the best interests of the organization first and because we don’t have all the information, it’s very difficult to make the decision right now.”

Kapler said he considers Velasquez one of his 13 best pitchers so that would seem to indicate that the club does not plan to option him to Triple A, but you never know.

If Velasquez stays in the majors and doesn’t return to the rotation, he will have to go to the bullpen. That idea has been talked about in the past and it seems more real than ever now. Even Velasquez mentioned the possibility on Wednesday.

Velasquez mentioned that pitching out of the bullpen does carry some appeal — especially if he could be a closer.

“I want to be the ninth-inning guy,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind trying it.”

But as intriguing as being a closer would be for Velasquez, he said he was not ready to give up on being a starter yet.

“I’m not throwing in the towel on that yet,” he said. “I want to ride out being a starter. But I do think closing would be cool in the future.”

The Phillies had problems at closer Tuesday night. With half the bullpen getting a rest because of heavy workload, Juan Nicasio was pressed into service in the ninth inning. He blew a one-run lead and the Phillies suffered an excruciating 3-2 loss to the Cubs (see story).

Wonder what Velasquez could have done as a closer in that game?

Wonder what the Phillies’ bullpen availability chart would have looked like if he were working out of the bullpen as a multi-inning guy pitching in the fifth through seventh innings in close games? If Velasquez could succeed in that role, Kapler might be able to hold back his high-leverage bullpen arms and use them only late in games.

Kapler admitted that he has dreamed on Velasquez as a multi-inning, high-leverage, bridge guy. Could we see it soon?

“I think it requires more discussion,” Kapler said. “I don’t think we’re there to make that assessment yet. I think that those conversations are ongoing and they take some time to crystallize and they haven’t quite crystallized yet. They’re more in the discussion stages and not in the clear action-step stage.

“But the potential that he fills that role is real, meaning he has the physical capability and tools to make that work. It’s been on the table for quite [some time]. In theory, I love it. But the obvious flipside is: Don’t all [Velasquez’s strengths] help you in the rotation, as well?”

Some of this is going to be answered by Irvin over the coming days and weeks.

But moving Vince Velasquez to the bullpen is an idea that seems to be getting closer. 

And speaking of the bullpen, Kapler responded to Pat Neshek’s saying that he did not have enough time to warm up in the bullpen (see story) during Monday night’s game:

“If Pat needs a certain amount of time to get ready to come into the game, it’s my job to be responsive to that and to give him plenty of time to come into the game, give him plenty of time to get loose to come into the game," Kapler said. "The only thing that matters here is that Pat feels like he didn’t have enough time to get loose and my responsibility is to ensure that he has enough time to get loose and that’s it.”

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Strange postgame vibe after an inexcusably ugly Phillies loss

Strange postgame vibe after an inexcusably ugly Phillies loss

Where does one begin after a night like this?

With the offense that loaded the bases twice in the first three innings against Clayton Kershaw and stranded all six runners?

With the entire infield, which forgot how many outs there were in a fourth inning that set baseball back 70 years?

With the bullpen full of fringe or inexperienced major-league relievers that turned a six-run game into a 13-run game and stood no chance against the Dodgers' potent lineup?

With the $330 million outfielder who has been outplayed by more than a few visiting superstars at Citizens Bank Park this season?

This 16-2 loss, this was the kind of game that left the manager, the players, the fans and the reporters with more questions than answers.

"It's certainly not encouraging," Gabe Kapler said when asked about the embarrassing performance.

The manager didn't do much expanding. He didn't need to. The fact is the 2019 Dodgers are worlds better than the 2019 Phillies. L.A.'s rotation goes five, six, seven deep. Their lineup can beat you with power, with plate selection, with contact or with small ball like they used in the fourth inning, when they perfectly executed a safety squeeze and a double-steal of second and home.

Facing Kershaw, you're not going into the game with huge expectations. The Phillies were +160 underdogs, one of the biggest underdog lines you will see for a baseball team playing at home. But this was still pathetic. Inexcusable. Baffling. Concerning.

Why is it that opposing offenses can come into this park and make it look small? Why is it that opposing hitters can take such advantage of these juiced baseballs but the Phillies cannot? Cody Bellinger had as many home runs in a three-inning span Monday as Harper has in his last 17 home games.

The Phillies have been outscored 34-8 by the Dodgers, the team every other club in the National League knows it probably must get through to make it to the World Series. What is the Phillies' goal at this point? Is it to chase the wild-card? Is it to make it to a one-game playoff, cross their fingers and call it a job well done?

That wasn't the goal in the spring, when this team had 90-plus win aspirations and looked like it might feature five All-Stars.

This is why the game isn't played on paper, they say.

"I think after yesterday's game everybody's real positive and after a game like tonight you feel like you got kicked in the teeth," said Jay Bruce, who stranded six runners. "You get to start over each day and you get to start a game at 0-0 and have an opportunity to win. We have to play better, for sure. But as poorly as we've played, we're still right there in the wild-card hunt and you never know what's going to happen in the division so we just need to play like we can and play more consistent baseball and see what happens. ... A night like tonight is tough but we get to come back tomorrow and do it again."

There weren't many players in the clubhouse when it opened. Harper was sitting right there waiting, like he always does, no matter the game's outcome. He deserves credit for that, even if some of his answers rang hollow.

Zach Eflin, who has allowed 22 runs in his last 20 innings, actually took some positives from his start.

"I really felt like I probably gave up only two hard-ish hit balls that (fourth) inning," he said. "But at the end of the day, I felt like I got better today. I thought me and J.T. (Realmuto) did a good job of mixing pitches and really getting my curveball and changeup over. So although the box score doesn't really look too good, I feel like I took a lot of positives from today.

"We're all calm. There's no need to panic. We know how good we're going to be and it's just going to take that one time, that one game that everything clicks and then it's going to be a fun rest of the year."

They're fine. Everything is fine. The season isn't deteriorating two weeks before the trade deadline.

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Phillies embarrassed by Dodgers and have 2 of the ugliest innings you'll ever see

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Phillies embarrassed by Dodgers and have 2 of the ugliest innings you'll ever see


What a completely humiliating loss for the Phillies.

It wasn't just that they were blown out, 16-2, by the visiting Dodgers. It was the way it unfolded and the way it sounded.

The Dodgers, with so many of their fans chanting and cheering throughout the night, scored six runs in the Phillies' ugliest inning of the season, the top of the fourth Monday. 

They went single, RBI double, groundout, RBI single, walk, RBI single, safety squeeze RBI single, sacrifice, RBI single, double steal of 2nd and home.

The Dodgers' catcher, Austin Barnes, laid down the successful squeeze. Cesar Hernandez was shifted all the way toward the second base bag and had no chance to scamper to first in time to receive the throw from Zach Eflin. A few batters later, it was again the catcher Barnes who stole home.

And that wasn't even the worst look of the inning. When Eflin struck out Alex Verdugo for the third out, the Phillies were so out of it that the entire infield appeared to not know it was the third out. Realmuto trickled the ball back to the pitcher, Eflin and his fielders stood around, and then after a few seconds, all realized in unison the inning was over and walked toward the dugout. 

The boos just rained down.

You can't blame Phillies fans at this point. They've been watching bad baseball for six weeks. An offense that can't consistently pick up the big hit, a rotation that can't get six innings deep nearly enough, a bullpen that can't protect leads.

It all bubbled to the surface Monday in an ugly loss, the kind of loss one would hope leads to a team meeting or a tough conversation or something that shows these coaches and players are taking the mounting losses personally.

And it got even worse

The Dodgers later added four homers, two by Cody Bellinger. Bellinger had as many home runs at CBP Monday as Bryce Harper has in his last 17 home games.

And still, it got worse. In the eighth inning, Yacksel Rios was ejected for hitting Justin Turner after Verdugo's homer, Edgar Garcia couldn't get a third out, the Dodgers scored five more runs and the Phillies were forced to insert Roman Quinn to pitch ... with the bases loaded. Quinn did get the inning-ending flyout before allowing two more runs in the ninth.

The Phillies are 48-46. Tomorrow night is Vince Velasquez against Walker Buehler.

Missed opportunities

The Phillies loaded the bases in the first and third innings against Clayton Kershaw and stranded all six runners. Jay Bruce was the main culprit, flying out to end the first and striking out on three pitches with one out and the sacks full in the third.

The Phillies reached base twice via error against Kershaw in the third inning. When you're facing a Hall of Fame pitcher, you have to cash in when you get the chance. The Phillies couldn't. You almost knew before the Dodgers even crossed the plate that this would be costly.

Segura dinged?

Jean Segura was limping in the field in the top of the ninth and again after his groundout in the bottom of the ninth. Manager Gabe Kapler said after the game that Segura was being examined but had no further update. We'll know more Tuesday.

Up next

The Phillies again miss NL All-Star starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, but that just means they get the rest of the Dodgers' strong rotation.

Tuesday night at 7:05 — Vince Velasquez (2-5, 4.63) vs. Walker Buehler (8-1, 3.46)

Wednesday night at 7:05 — Nick Pivetta (4-4, 5.81) vs. Kenta Maeda (7-6, 3.82)

Thursday afternoon at 12:35 — Aaron Nola (8-2, 3.63) vs. Ross Stripling (4-3, 3.65)

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