The Philadelphia Phillies rotation consists of five solid starters, but there seems to be confusion on which spot each pitcher should hold. Pete Mackanin didn’t surprise anyone putting veteran Jeremy Hellickson as the opening day starter, but he put Vince Velasquez in the 4th position and Aaron Nola in the 5th. The two pitchers with arguably the most potential were put in the last two spots in the rotation.
Velasquez arguably has the best chance to being #1 in the rotation by the beginning of the 2018 season, so his quest to achieve that began Friday afternoon in the home opener against the Washington Nationals. On a cold windy day, to say that Velasquez started on fire would be untrue.
He left a 3-2 change-up right over the plate to Bryce Harper which he blasted into the right field seats to go down 2-0 in the first inning. In the third inning, it was Daniel Murphy blasting a two run homer to center again, on a two-strike count, to put the Phillies at a four run deficit early in the game.
“It’s very frustrating giving up two home runs the first few innings and not giving your guys an opportunity to come out on top. I give our guys credit for battling the way they did, but I need to go deeper into the game,” Velasquez said postgame.
That “battle” was the Phillies scoring two runs against Max Scherzer and four against the Nationals bullpen, but still falling one run short. Three bad pitches lost the game, with the Nationals scoring all of their runs on homers.
There were a couple positives about Vince’s start though. Known as a strikeout pitcher, and him postgame saying he had “no command” of his fastball, Velasquez still struck out ten batters in four innings of work. Still, it took him 94 pitches to get 12 outs.
Pete Mackanin was not extremely concerned by his below average outing, but says there are parts of Vince’s game that need improvement. Mackannin said, “I think sometimes he thinks he’s got to do too much, that he can just overpower hitters. There’s a time and a place to do that, and there’s a time and a place to finesse. He’s going to get it.”
Velasquez will have his chance to bounce back on Wednesday night against Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Reyes and the New York Mets.