Phillies Mailbag: McClure, Velasquez, Saunders
We are back with another Phillies mailbag. We take your questions each week and then talk about them on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill every Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. Send your questions on Twitter to @FrankKlose.
You coming around on my thoughts about replacing McClure?
Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure joined the Phillies coaching staff in 2013 after the Phillies failed to land a few names such as Roger McDowell, Bryan Price, and Jim Benedict. Several Phillies pitchers are struggling in 2017 thus far, leading some to conclude that McClure should lose his job. However, not so fast.
First, McClure should not be expected to be a miracle worker. I tweeted some with Mike on this topic back and forth. Is McClure keeping Adam Morgan from being better, or is this what Adam Morgan probably is? Is McClure looking to build a long-term future for Joaquin Benoit? Is it McClure's fault that the Phillies bullpen only has one left-handed pitcher and the one that they have is not pitching well?
There is plenty that McClure cannot be blamed for. However, there may be reasons for some concern, but I do not think that these are necessarily a deal breaker.
The regression of pitchers Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez may be something McClure gets some slack for. But, if many draw the conclusion - as our question poser Mike did - that Velasquez really belongs in the bullpen, that is not McClure's call. Doing that is likely a wider organizational question.
The Phillies coaching staff has the roster they've been given. If they make Velasquez a starter without the general manager getting involved, what should they do, start Luis Garcia? As I've said a few times, Velasquez probably gets the full season as a starter.
The public discussion about Cameron Rupp calling a pitch that McClure did not like, I did find to be inappropriate. I did not think that the media needed to get involved with that. I do not think that slip up would cost McClure his job.
McClure is in year four of his run as Phillies pitching coach. He has lived the typical major league coach lifespan in baseball. Could the Phillies make a change eventually? Maybe. If they do, I do not think that it would be until the end of the season.
What do you make of the comments Vince Velasquez made the other day?
After Phillies starter Vince Velasquez's last game, in which he could not complete the sixth inning and left his season ERA not too far shy of 6, Velasquez opened up to some reporters. Here is what Velasquez had to say via Comcast Sports Net:
"In the game, it's just a lack of commitment, a lack of concentration, just a lack of everything. I mean, jeez, even my golf game is a lack of everything. I don't know. I'm just clueless right now. I'm just running around like a chicken without a head. I don't know what I've got to do but I just know there's something — I've got to break it down little by little.
It would appear that Velasquez is hearing everything people have been saying his entire Phillies tenure: Velasquez either has to learn to go deep into ballgames or else he should move to the bullpen.
Velasquez was just fine through five innings. After allowing two earned runs through the first five frames, it was almost as if Velasquez felt the pressure to go deeper and as the pressure built, the more he imploded. Velasquez was only able to get one more out and next thing you know he was charged with runs three, four, and five.
Yogi Berra used to say, "The game's 90 percent half mental". I think what we are seeing is Velasquez battling himself. In this interview, he seemed to really open up his personal vulnerability. Even though it does not give the impression of Velasquez being tough, it's a real issue athletes deal with.
The good news is that Velasquez probably can work through this. If the Phillies can help build his confidence, he will not have a "the sky is falling" mentality when he gives up a hit to start the sixth inning. We will watch and see how he deals with this setback.
What is the point of Michael Saunders?
The Phillies share your frustration with outfielder Michael Saunders. After committing $9 million to Saunders, the Phillies envisioned Saunders as a middle-of-the-order bat that would help protect the likes of Maikel Franco and help the lineup function better with a left-handed bat ahead of Tommy Joseph. Franco has struggled, Joseph has struggled, and so has Saunders.
Saunders, an All-Star for the Toronto Blue Jays last season, was batting just .232 so far for the Phillies heading into Monday night's game. Saunders batted eighth for the first time all season Monday, a clear sign of the Phillies' frustration. Saunders went 0 for 3.
Saunders probably will get to play a bit more to work himself out of his slump, particularly with Howie Kendrick still out and no return in sight. If things continue, Aaron Altherr will probably assume right field, should the Phillies refrain from promoting any of their young talent. Saunders has an $11 million option for next year, but the Phillies are by no means overly-committed to playing him or keeping him.
For now, it is probably good that Saunders plays to try to restore some value. The Phillies will probably look to move him and turn a roster spot over to a younger player come July. If not, Saunders could occupy a place on the Phillies bench. Or, if they need to, they can simply cut him and eat the money. The Phillies are more worried about the progress of youth than the money.
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin spoke of "taking the pressure off" Saunders by dropping him to the eighth spot. But Saunders is no rookie and he earned by far earns the highest salary of any of those other players in the lineup Monday night. The Phillies are clearly telling Saunders to get things together.
I advocated for the Phillies to bring back former Phillies outfielder Brandon Moss. Moss isn't doing much better. So far for the Kansas City Royals Moss is batting an even .200, going 20 for 100. Jay Bruce was a consideration, but Bruce has been in a free fall since his hot start.