CONTINUING COMMAND ISSUES
After the game, Velasquez was quoted by Matt Gelb of Philly.com:
His failure to get through the sixth inning is not unusual. Velasquez pitched into the seventh just three times last season in his 24 starts. This year, he has reached the seventh just once over his first eight trips to the mound.
Velasquez still overpowers hitters. He has now recorded 197 strikeouts over 173.2 innings with the Phillies. But pitch counts remain an issue. He is frequently over the 90-pitch mark by the fifth or sixth inning due to command and control issues.
There has been talk that perhaps Velasquez ultimate best role would be in the bullpen. Perhaps he could develop into a lights-out closer. That may, in fact, be his ultimate fate. That wouldn’t be so bad either.
A STEP BACK MAY BE IN ORDER
However, the time to try Velasquez out in the bullpen is not now. He turns 25 years old in a couple of weeks. He has proven durable to this point in his career. There is still realistic hope that he can figure it out, and become not only dominating in spurts, but more reliable and consistent.
Frankly, what it may take is a trip up the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Let Velasquez go to AAA Lehigh Valley, where the IronPigs have one of the best teams in the minor leagues. There Velasquez can work on his confidence in a less pressurized environment where the ball club is winning.
The Phillies have a pair of pitching prospects with Lehigh Valley who deserve and appear ready for a shot in the big leagues. Those would be right-handers Jake Thompson and Ben Lively.
Let Velasquez go to Lehigh Valley for a few weeks. Tell him this isn’t a rush job. Give him a plan, say, after the MLB All-Star break. That would be a good seven weeks and about 10 starting assignments.
Many pitchers have needed to take a step back in order to move forward in their development. It would certainly not be a blow to Velasquez’ confidence, which already appears on the brink of being shattered.