CINCINNATI -- As Vince Velasquez saw it, he settled down after a laborious first inning Tuesday night and was headed for a solid start when he got lifted for pinch-hitter Logan Morrison in the top of the fourth.
Why the quick hook?
Velasquez, who characterized the move as “a surprise,” met Wednesday with Phillies manager Gabe Kapler here at Great American Ball Park. Kapler explained that, with an 11-man bullpen and a nine-man bench thanks to the expanded September roster, he intends to make moves earlier in games not started by ace Aaron Nola if an opportunity arises for a big inning. In this case, the Phillies had the bases loaded, one out, and a chance to build on a one-run lead.
“It just [stinks],” Velasquez said. “If you put yourself in my shoes, you wouldn’t want to go three innings, right? I mean, there’s some frustration there. But you have to understand the big picture and the big picture is winning. Bottom line.”
Kapler employed this strategy last year, too. Velasquez made five starts last September and went five, four, two, three and 3 2/3 innings in those games. This isn’t new.
But Kapler met with Velasquez to review the rules of engagement in the season’s final month. He also reiterated confidence in Velasquez, who lost his spot in the rotation in June and has posted a 5.28 earned-run average in 13 starts since regaining it.
“When you hit for a guy early in a bases-loaded situation with a great weapon off the bench, with a full bullpen in September, it’s not an indication that we don’t feel confident in [the pitcher],” Kapler said. “It’s an indication that we have the kind of roster that can support a decision like that.”
Velasquez said he and Kapler had a “great talk” and that he understands the manager’s philosophy.
“There are pitchers out there that have a slow start and manage to go six, seven, eight innings, and I’m one of those competitive pitchers. I’m capable of doing that,” said Velasquez, who has completed seven innings once in 19 starts. “He felt he needed to make the move to get more runs. We’re kind of on the same page.
“When you have the opportunity to get more runs, especially in a crucial time that we’re in right now, I would say, ‘Make your move, Kap. If that’s what you feel, then all right. I’ve got my three innings and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get back out there the next outing.'”
Injured reliever Seranthony Dominguez had what Kapler termed a “positive” examination with team physician Michael Ciccotti and was cleared to resume throwing. Although it’s doubtful that he will return this season, it does appear that he will avoid surgery.
Dominguez hasn’t pitched since June 5 when he experienced elbow soreness during an appearance in San Diego. The 24-year-old right-hander would be the sixth Phillies reliever to be lost for the season, joining David Robertson, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, Victor Arano, and likely Adam Morgan.