MILWAUKEE -- Vince Velasquez received a text message Thursday night from manager Gabe Kapler and pitching coach Chris Young informing the pitcher that he was being moved -- temporarily, at least -- to the Phillies’ bullpen.
Velasquez learned that he was rejoining the team, but it was not a guarantee that his rotation spot -- which he has held since 2016 -- was still his.
Velasquez, Kapler said Friday afternoon in recalling the text-message exchange, “seemed excited” and was “especially comfortable with the idea” of pitching out of the bullpen while the team determined if he or Nick Pivetta would start Tuesday night. Kapler said Velasquez still wanted to be a starter, but “he was a team player, to say the least.”
The pitcher seemed to carry a different tone. He said the conversation was “short and sweet.” The only thing he said he knew is that he would be sitting in the bullpen.
“It would be kind of frustrating,” Velasquez said of losing his rotation spot. “I said from the beginning that I wanted to be a starter. I still have a lot of juice in me. But I don’t know what the final decision is going to be, so I can only tell you so much because I only know so much. I don’t know what they have planned.
“I only had two bad starts. I guess if they were going to come down to that decision and that I didn’t do my job in those two starts, it sucks. There’s still a lot of room for improvement. I started out pretty hot and for them to decide after two starts that I should be in the bullpen is kind of a bummer. I still have a lot of life in me.”
A half-hour later, Velasquez asked if he could clarify himself. He met with Kapler, who was made aware of Velasquez’ comments, for 10 minutes inside his office in Miller Park.
“Kap and I, we’re kind of on the same page now,” Velasquez said. “Got some things off my shoulder and kind of just know what my role is now. Then, I didn’t know, everything was kind of up in the air. Going into today’s game, just kind of mentally preparing myself to get ready for the game. The start is still up in the air. Really don’t know how we’re going to approach it. Just continue to be the strong pitcher that I am and do what I do best.”
The Phillies will decide sometime this weekend who will start for them on Tuesday against the Cardinals. Velasquez came in as a reliever Friday in the bottom of the fifth inning, throwing two scoreless innings and recording four strikeouts. But he should still be ready to start on Tuesday. Friday’s move to the bullpen does not automatically take him out of the rotation.
Velasquez was asked if he would still be upset to not start on Tuesday. He said he wouldn’t as him and Kapler “kind of squashed that.” Velasquez, after his meeting with Kapler, said “he was open to anything.” Now, the two seemed to be carrying the same tone.
“I was kind of heated at the point of not knowing what I was going to do as far as the preparation goes. I didn’t know how to prepare myself to get ready for the game,” Velasquez said. “But it seems like things are a lot more clear as to what I’m going to be doing. Then again, I should be mentally and physically prepared for whatever the given situation is. That’s the mentality I should have. In the last 20 minutes when we talked was probably the wrong approach to have. That’s on my end and I should do a better job on that end. I’m clear-minded and open to anything.”