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Vince Velasquez must improve mental outlook, Phillies pitching coach says

For five minutes Saturday night, after another Phillies loss he started, Vince Velasquez unloaded weeks of frustration.

PITTSBURGH - For five minutes Saturday night, after another Phillies loss he started, Vince Velasquez unloaded weeks of frustration. He said he was clueless and proclaimed he must reset his entire approach. As a small group of reporters dispersed from the area around his locker, Velasquez grabbed the top of the wood-framed stall with both hands and thrust his body's weight against it. The locker did not budge.

Velasquez, 24, is an emotional pitcher. But he is not helpless; the Phillies coaches, for more than a year, have stressed certain adjustments that Velasquez must apply in order to become more than a thrower.

"I'm their pitching coach," Bob McClure said. "I have to stand behind them, but I also have to tell them the truth of what I see and how I think it would help them improve."

The Phillies tested Velasquez, who threw 90 pitches in five innings Saturday, with a chance to pitch through the sixth. His failure mirrored those before it. Velasquez has a 5.98 ERA in eight starts.

The righthander, McClure said, must improve his mental outlook.

"We have to sit down and talk about what's going through his mind when this is happening," McClure said. "When it starts to unravel what's going through your mind? How are you thinking there? Are you thinking more, 'Oh, here we go again?' Or are you thinking, 'OK, this is what I need to throw in this situation and this is where I need to throw it?' I don't know."

These are conversations the Phillies, McClure included, have had before with Velasquez. They are conversations McClure had more than a decade ago with a young Zack Greinke, who posted a 5.80 ERA in his second season in the majors with the Kansas City Royals. They are conversations that hundreds of young pitchers with lesser talent than Velasquez have had.

Greinke required a trip to the minors to straighten his career. McClure does not believe Velasquez needs that. Yet.

"I'd prefer to have him up here," McClure said. "I do. It just depends on how beaten up they feel. At Zack's point, we knew it was the best thing for him - not for us - for him. So it didn't matter what we thought. I don't think Vince is there. I really don't. I don't.

"I just think he has to improve on how he looks at things, his perception of things. That's how you improve. Stay straight with yourself. Understand what happened. How do I fix it? Try that. It doesn't work? Try this. Without an overhaul. It's more of how you perceive what's going on."

That is best accomplished, McClure said, with Velasquez pitching every fifth day.

"I would rather him pitch in the rotation," McClure said, "because I think when he finally addresses these things, I think you're going to see a guy who can manipulate a lineup. A guy who can manage a lineup and get through it. I really do."

Until then, Velasquez will pitch with scrutiny. It is difficult to develop a player in the majors, but the Phillies are committed to Velasquez. They will attempt to guide him through his current confusion.

"I don't know the timetable," McClure said. "All I know is that it's going to happen. I just don't know when."

Extra bases

The Phillies optioned Adam Morgan, who spent two days with the team but did not pitch, to triple-A Lehigh Valley. They needed a roster spot for Aaron Nola. . . . Jerad Eickhoff will start Monday against Colorado, the team with the best record in the National League. The Rockies will counter with former first-round pick Jeff Hoffman.