The seasons may change, the roster may churn, but two things are constant for the Phillies: They can’t rely on Vince Velasquez, and they struggle against the Miami Marlins.

Velasquez, ever the enigma on the mound, was scratched roughly 20 minutes before his scheduled first pitch Thursday night because of numbness in his right index finger. Then, the Phillies got three hits and struck out 15 times in a 6-0 blanking by the Marlins in the rubber game of a three-game series.

Dating to the beginning of the 2019 season, the Phillies are 13-19 against the Marlins. The teams will meet again next week in a four-game series in Miami.

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— Scott Lauber (extrainnings@inquirer.com)

Chase Anderson knows he’s ‘got to be better’

Chase Anderson walked off the mound Sunday in Dunedin, Fla., with seven runs in and one out in the second inning against the Toronto Blue Jays. It marked his shortest start in four years and the third shortest of his 175-start major-league career, and it prompted a perfectly fair question.

How much longer can the Phillies continue to give him the ball?

Manager Joe Girardi didn’t equivocate this week when asked if Anderson will drag his 6.96 ERA to the mound for his next start Saturday night against the high-powered Boston Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park. And after several days of self-reflection, not to mention work in the bullpen with pitching coach Caleb Cotham, Anderson leaned against a railing near the dugout before Thursday night’s game and discussed his seemingly precarious standing in the Phillies’ starting rotation.

“There’s always somebody behind you,” he said. “I used to be the guy behind somebody. That’s the thing. The longer you play at this level, there’s always development being made by the organization of trying to get guys to pitch in the big leagues and develop pitchers.”

Anderson is here because the Phillies haven’t developed nearly enough quality pitchers in recent years. It’s also the reason that the 33-year-old right-hander is staying in the rotation even though he hasn’t recorded an out after the fifth inning in eight starts.

When Dave Dombrowski got hired as president of baseball operations in December, he inventoried the organization and found so few back-of-the-rotation options that he spent a total of $7 million to sign Anderson and lefty Matt Moore as free agents. Neither has panned out as planned.

Moore put up a 9.82 ERA in three starts, then missed a week after being identified as a contact of someone who had tested positive for COVID-19. Velasquez pitched well in his place, and upon rejoining the team, Moore got shoved to the bullpen as a miscast long reliever.

Anderson, for all his warts, has kept the Phillies close in all but his last start. Despite being unable to pitch deep into games, he has left with a lead in three starts and trailing by one run in three others. The Phillies tried to mitigate his drain on the bullpen by shuffling the rotation a few weeks ago to slot him in between co-aces Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler.

It was hardly a perfect solution. Alas, it was probably the best the Phillies could do — and that was before Velasquez bowed out of Thursday night’s start with the finger issue that has left his status for his next start up in the air, according to Girardi.

With Velasquez stepping in for Moore, the best option behind Anderson is top pitching prospect Spencer Howard. It isn’t a coincidence that he is starting in triple A on the same days that Anderson starts in the majors. But the Phillies have capped Howard at four innings per start to manage his workload. If Howard took Anderson’s spot in the rotation, it likely would have to be part of a piggyback arrangement with Anderson, Moore, or another pitcher capable of going multiple innings.

“I’m glad Spencer’s pitching well,” Anderson said. “He’s a friend of mine. Got to know him in spring training. But my job is to give this team a chance to win every five days.”

After signing with the Phillies, Anderson said he believes he’s “suited best as a starting pitcher with all four pitches that I throw.” His history supports that. Anderson’s ERA as a starter is 4.08. In nine career relief appearances, he has a 7.91 ERA, including a 12.27 mark in three outings last season with the Blue Jays.

But Anderson also knows he must earn his spot. It’s always been that way for the former ninth-round draft pick. After making 30 starts for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2016, he had to compete for a spot in the rotation the following spring. Looking back, he believes it fueled him to have the best season of his career.

“For me, it’s always you’ve got to have that mentality that you can’t take a day for granted,” Anderson said. “That’s how my career has been. It’s just believing I can do this and do it at a high level.”

The last week, then, has been about “holding fast to the process of working at what you can do better.” More than anything, Anderson must sharpen his command. His walk rate, 10.6%, is the highest of his career, well beyond his 7.9% career rate.

“I think it just comes down to attacking the strike zone on a consistent basis and making pitches when you have to,” Anderson said. “At times I’ve done that this year, and at times I haven’t. I’m not going to sugarcoat that or make any excuses. Just got to be better, for sure.”

And if he isn’t, the Phillies will have to think seriously about replacing him, even if it means going outside the organization.

The rundown

Amid a sharp decline in offense, MLB will experiment with moving back the mound in the independent Atlantic League this summer. J.T. Realmuto has a better idea, as he told Matt Breen in this fascinating story.

Alec Bohm played in his 44th game of the season Thursday night, equaling his total as a rookie last year. The dropoff in his offensive production has been stark. He discussed his struggles at the plate.

Inquirer photographer Yong Kim got some great shots from the game Thursday night.

Important dates

Tonight: Nola opens a series at home vs. Red Sox, 7:05 p.m.

Tomorrow: Anderson faces Red Sox’s Nathan Eovaldi, 7:15 p.m.

Sunday: Wheeler vs. Boston’s Eduardo Rodriguez, 1:05 p.m.

Monday: Phillies open a nine-game road trip in Miami, 6:40 p.m.

Stat of the day

It got overshadowed by the worst bullpen in baseball, but defense was a huge problem for the Phillies last season. In 60 games, they were 33 runs below average in defensive runs saved, according to Sports Info Solutions, 14th in the NL and 28th in the majors.

If it’s possible, the defense seems to be worse this season.

Through 43 games, with 26.5% of the season complete, the Phillies ranked last in the NL and second-to-last in the majors in DRS (minus-22). Only the Angels (minus-30) were worse.

Since 2002, the Phillies’ worst defensive team was the 2015 club, which finished 98 runs below average in DRS. But that team also lost 99 games.

From the mailbag

Send questions by email or on Twitter @ScottLauber.

Question: Isn’t it time for the Phillies to simply release Scott Kingery and admit they made a mistake by giving him a large contract three years ago? He is a waste of a slot on the 40-man roster. — Kenneth A., via email

Answer: Thanks, Kenneth, for reading and reaching out. I doubt the Phillies will release Kingery. He’s a former second-round pick who had success in the first half of the 2019 season. It’s a matter of fixing him, not giving up on him.

That said, I do believe they have considered designating him for assignment, front-office terminology for removing him from the 40-man roster. They might have even done so this week if Kingery hadn’t been sidelined by a concussion. The risk is that he wouldn’t clear waivers. But with his salary rising to $6 million next year and $8 million in 2023, teams might be dissuaded from claiming him.

Regardless, it’s worth noting that neither Girardi nor Dombrowski was in the organization when the Phillies made a $24 million commitment to Kingery. If that proves to be a mistake, as it appears now, it wasn’t theirs, perhaps leaving them more inclined to move on.