Is it Time for Phillies to Move Vince Velasquez to Closer?
Another night, another short outing for Vincent Velazquez.
The Phillies pitcher, with electric stuff and a live arm, failed to get into the sixth inning for the second time this season. In two games, he has pitched just nine innings, walking seven batters in the process, generating a WHIP of 1.89.
There is no question Velazquez has electric stuff, has evidenced by this impressive 17 strikeouts through the first two games, but his inability to get deeper into games is becoming an unfortunate trend. The long ball has become a significant problem, and would be regardless of whether he is pitching is in the starting rotation or the bullpen.
"The guy has tremendous stuff," former Phillies closer and current pre and postgame analyst Ricky Bottalico told The Sports Bash. But not getting deep into games was his nemesis last year - from last year to this year, it looks like the same thing."
So what should the Phillies do with such a talented live arm?
How about moving him to the back end of the bullpen, where the team just demoted closer Jeanmar Gomez?
The Phillies have plenty of organizational depth that could fill the void in the rotation, guys like Jake Thompson, Zach Eflin, Ben Lively or Nick Pivetta could step in while Velazquez helps to stabilize the bullpen.
"He'd be a tremendous closer," the former closer said with excitement. "Wow, are you kidding me"
We all know 39-year old Joaquin Benoit isn't the long-term answer as the closer, he is simply keeping the seat warm so the team's younger arms don't command more ammunition to the arbitration table, which is why you likely wouldn't see this move happen.
"I think there going to give his this year, to see if he can figure everything out as a starter," Bottalico explained. If not, you might see that switch made."
Unless he can start lowering his pitch count and getting deeper into games, it's becoming more and more evident that Velazquez is less pitcher and more thrower. He could form an intimidating one-two punch with Hector Neris, and could also be utilized in two-inning situations, giving the team more flexibility late in games with Neris.
While Velazquez has been boom-or-bust in his 33 career major league starts, he certainly has a major league arm, there is no question about that. But that arm might be best utilized in short bursts to maximize his potential.