Until last Saturday, Vince Velasquez had never pitched at triple A. Houston skipped him in 2015 from double A to the majors, and he stuck there. But he traveled last weekend to triple-A Lehigh Valley for the beginning of a rehab process that will carry him through the all-star break.

His right elbow, injured in a May 30 start, was not a problem during 33 pitches for the IronPigs.

"It was good," Velasquez said. "Everything was pretty much happening the way I thought it was going to happen."

He'll pitch Thursday in Trenton for double-A Reading. Then he'll make another start with a minor-league team. After that, the plans remain unclear. Could he return to the Phillies as a reliever and not a starter?

"They haven't mentioned anything," Velasquez said. "As we speak right now, I don't know where I stand. There's been some talk. But, as of right now, I'll probably continue my starting career. We have tons of pitchers. We have a lot of talent. I don't think moving me into a relieving or closing role will make any difference because we're all competitive pitchers."

That talk, Velasquez said, was nothing substantial. He discussed some ideas with the coaching staff.

Team officials, including general manager Matt Klentak, have stated their preference that Velasquez remain a starter. He had a 5.58 ERA in 10 starts before the minor injury to his right elbow flexor tendon. He had a 4.12 ERA in 24 starts last season.

The Phillies have some options. In a perfect world, Velasquez would pitch 180 valuable innings for them in the rotation rather than 60 or 70 as a reliever. He is 25, with electric stuff, and has started just 41 games in the majors. He has things to learn.

One scenario: Instead of completely scrapping the idea of Velasquez as a starter, they could bring him back in 2017 as a reliever with the goal of building his confidence. That would not preclude them from revisiting his future as a starter. Or, if he takes to the bullpen role, that could be where he begins 2018.

That idea, for now, is nothing but a hypothetical. The Phillies could have a rotation opening if Jeremy Hellickson is traded this month. There is no rush to render a significant decision on Velasquez's future.

"There is nothing finalized," Velasquez said. "I've been a reliever before. I've never closed in my life. … Sometimes, I envision myself being a closer. It would be pretty fun to be a closer. But I don't have any intentions on being one right now, as we speak.

"The bottom line is being healthy and coming back strong. That's it."

Extra bases

Outfielder/infielder Howie Kendrick has a mild left hamstring strain, a diagnosis confirmed by Monday's MRI examination. He is eligible to return Saturday from the disabled list, but it's more likely that the Phillies delay his activation until after the all-star break. The Phillies play 15 games after the break and before the July 31 trade deadline. … Ben Lively will make his seventh start Wednesday. Pittsburgh will counter with its ace, Gerrit Cole.