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Phillies’ Vince Velasquez heads to injured list with right forearm strain, insists he’s still best suited to be a starter

Velasquez, who has been struggling recently, was scheduled to pitch Sunday,

Vince Velasquez of the Phillies pitches against the Braves on May 22, 2018.
Vince Velasquez of the Phillies pitches against the Braves on May 22, 2018.Read moreCHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In looking ahead to this weekend’s series, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said he was curious to see whether Vince Velasquez would be better about following the game plan on Sunday against the Royals than he was in his previous start in St. Louis.

As it turns out, Velasquez won't be pitching at all.

After throwing a bullpen session here at Kauffman Stadium on Friday, Velasquez said he felt "a little sore in the forearm area." Taking no chances, the Phillies placed Velasquez on the 10-day injured list retroactive to Wednesday and called up reliever Austin Davis from triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Left-hander Cole Irvin will be promoted from triple-A to make his major-league debut in Velasquez’s place against the Royals. Irvin, a 2016 fifth-round draft pick, is a contact pitcher who neither overpowers hitters nor racks up big strikeout numbers. He has a 2.25 ERA in six starts for Lehigh Valley this season.

Although Kapler labeled the move as “precautionary” and the Phillies have not yet ordered an MRI or other testing, Velasquez will miss at least two starts. He can’t be activated until next Saturday, at the earliest.

"It's just something that's very minor, and I don't think it's going to prolong to months," Velasquez said. "I think it might be something short-term, and I might be coming back within a week. Who knows?"

Velasquez has a 3.86 ERA in six starts so far this season. But although he has pitched relatively well, he also has completed six innings only once. His last two starts have lasted only 3 2/3 and four innings, respectively.

When Velasquez returns, could it be as a reliever?

"I don't know," Kapler said, leaving the proverbial door ajar. "Let's see how Cole Irvin looks [Sunday]. We'll decide who's going to make the next start in the rotation as we gather more information."

Kapler conceded that Velasquez "has the stuff to pitch in the bullpen," but also said the Phillies aren't actively discussing such a move.

And Velasquez left no doubt about his preferred role.

"I'm still a starting pitcher," he said. "I have a lot to accomplish. I've still got a lot of juice in me to throw the towel just yet. I still have a lot of starts ahead of me. Following [catcher] J.T. [Realmuto]'s lead will guide me to the right path and make me the successful starter that I am."

Velasquez said he began feeling something in his right forearm/elbow during the start in St. Louis on Monday night. Specifically, he felt it during a fifth-inning at-bat in which he threw three consecutive sliders to Paul DeJong, who later hit a fastball for a home run.

After that game, a 6-0 loss to the Cardinals, Realmuto expressed frustration that Velasquez shook him off frequently, particularly when he called for breaking balls and offspeed pitches. Looking back, Velasquez said the injury didn’t have anything to do with straying from Realmuto’s plan.

“I was still mid-90s [with his fastball], and I was still throwing all my secondary pitches,” Velasquez said. “I don’t think that was an excuse to not have the performance that I should’ve, knowing that my slider was working that night.”