MILWAUKEE - Vince Velasquez’ performance on Friday night provided the Phillies enough confidence to move the powerful-throwing right-hander to bullpen. His performance Sunday provided them enough of a reminder of how difficult that transition can be.
Velasquez allowed four runs on five hits Sunday and retired two of the eight batters he faced in the fifth inning. His first pitch was hammered 374 feet by Christian Yelich for a homer. His second pitch was smoked to center by Ryan Braun for a double off the wall.
He was exceptional Friday night as he pitched two scoreless innings of relief and retired five straight batters after allowing the first two to reach. He struck out four and pounded the Brewers with fastballs. For one night, he seemed to have the makings of a dominant reliever.
Two days later, it was a struggle. Velasquez had been a starting pitcher for the last three seasons. A transition to the bullpen - and the rigors of pitching with just one day of rest - was expected to bring challenges.
“I think it’s going to be a bit of a process and we’re going to need to demonstrate some patience and introduce him to situations at the right time and do our best to put him into good positions to succeed,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “I think he is confident in the process. I think today he just missed location with his fastball and lacked execution with his slider. Those are some really good hitters. That was the story of that inning. They were prepared to swing and swing early and got the barrel on the ball.”
With Velasquez moving to the bullpen, Nick Pivetta will start Tuesday against St. Louis as he returns to the starting rotation six weeks after he was demoted to triple A. He had a 3.41 ERA in six starts in Lehigh Valley and was scheduled to pitch Sunday night before learning that he was headed to the majors. He struck out 50 batters and walked 20 in 37 triple-A innings.
“We feel like there’s been some steps taken. He’s had some success and there have been some bumps in the road,” Kapler said. “(Pitching coach) Chris Young and I plan on having a good conversation with him and arming him with some information that will help him on Tuesday.”
Pat Neshek’s stint on the injured list could be lengthy after an MRI revealed inflammation in his right shoulder. Neshek returned to Philadelphia this weekend for testing after feeling discomfort while playing catch before Friday’s game.
“It’s probably going to be a little bit before he throws,” Kapler said.
Neshek’s injury occurred a day after he allowed two homers against the Cubs. He had refused to enter a game two nights earlier after he said Kapler did not give him enough time to warm up.
Neshek joins relievers David Robertson (elbow soreness), Tommy Hunter (forearm strain), and Victor Arano (elbow inflammation) on the injured list. Robertson and Hunter are progressing from their injuries, but are still weeks away from returning. Arano seems to be even further. He will visit orthopedist Neal ElAttrache on Monday in Los Angeles.