Phillies Mailbag: Kapler, Kingery, Velasquez
We are back once again with a 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. The Phillies are 1-2 so far this season and as we will do each and every week of the season, we will take your Phillies questions and discuss them on air on Tuesday afternoons on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill. Send a question anytime to the 97.3 ESPN text board or on Twitter to @FrankKlose
How long will it take before Gabe Kapler is fired? They should replace him before they get to Philadelphia on Thursday.
Will the Phillies fire their manager after three games? Of course the Phillies will not fire their manager after three games. Nor should they.
On social media, fans have been calling for the ouster of Phillies manager Gabe Kapler. Before we get all bent out of shape, let us consider a few things to calm down some.
1. Kapler is not without fault. After calling for left-handed reliever Hoby Milner without properly getting him warmed was clearly a mistake. Kapler acknowledged as much after mass, as did the umpiring crew.
This will not be the last mistake Kapler makes as he gets acclimated to his new role. The Phillies brought in veteran bench coach Rob Thomson to try to minimize such mistakes. But Kapler is a rookie, and we should expect some learning curve.
2. Phillies starter Vince Velasquez deserves a good amount of blame for failing to finish three innings. The Phillies should expect more from Velasquez at this point, who so far has failed to show that his electric arm has translated to a spot in the starting rotation. At some point in the nearer future than later, Velasquez needs to show he belongs or he will not be starting games for the Phillies.
Velasquez threw one more pitch than Opening Day starter Aaron Nola and got exactly half the outs. If you thought Nola should have pitched longer, it shows just how bad Velasquez was.
3. All of MLB lost a week of Spring Training and starters are less stretched out. The new CBA gave the players more off days at their request, which meant that they had to start the season a week earlier. This means starters have at least one fewer Spring appearance than usual, if not two.
Starters used to be stretched out further by now. In the six-inning era of starters that means across the game the bullpens are taxed this early.
4. Kapler does not have the two veteran arms the Phillies spent $34 million to stabilize the bullpen. Both Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter are of no help right now. That means at least two relievers who would not have made the club have to pitch (Jake Thompson and Edubray Ramos?).
That does not mean Kapler made the best decisions so far, but should Hunter or Neshek enter the game and calm things down, there may not have been an Opening Day loss or a 15-2, Pedro Florimon-pitched blowout may have been much more tame.
While fans should be frustrated for many reasons, calling for Kapler’s ouster now is a bit too extreme. Let us keep all of this in perspective as the Phillies head to New York to take on the Mets. Hopefully Jake Arrieta will help.
To whoever registered the domain name firegabekapler.com, know that it will not happen anytime soon, nor is that a discussion to have just yet.
Is all this moving around going to hurt Scott Kingery's development?
Phillies prospect Scott Kingery has yet to play a game at his natural position at second base, two games in. So far, Kingery has a start at shortstop and a start at third base and moved to left field during his second game. Kingery had Opening Day off. But the early returns indicate that no, Kingery is not being affected by moving around.
So far Kingery has nine at bats. In four of those at bats, Kingery has hits. Two of them were doubles. That is a .444 batting average and a 1.111 OPS in the early going, while playing three positions, none of which were his natural position. That is pretty impressive.
While bouncing around the diamond is not perhaps the ideal situation for a player, Kingery appears to have the ability to handle it. For all the talk about analytics, gauging a player's maturity and resiliency is not something that can be measured. But for the Phillies, they seem very confident in Kingery.
The new contract gives Kingery plenty of flexibility, even if it is to send him to the minors for some at bats. But I think he is just so happy to be in the major leagues, he'll go after whatever challenge comes his way.
Early on, he seems to be doing just fine. As he keeps hitting, I'm sure he will keep playing...somewhere.
How much longer will the Phillies put up with Vince Velasquez?
The Phillies should be concerned with the performance of starter Vince Velasquez. Part of the bullpen's problems are because Velasquez was able to get just eight outs before the Phillies had to pull him. It is becoming a recurring theme and Phillies fans are frustrated.
Velasquez is a major reason that the Phillies are not necessarily expected to contend in 2018. One of the major question marks for how the team moves forward is what they will get out of Velasquez. After starting 2016 with some promise, Velasquez was disappointing in 2017 and cannot afford to be again in 2018.
How long the Phillies give Velasquez will depend on how well he pitches and what other options they have available to them. Of course with Jerad Eickhoff on the disabled list, they are particularly thin. Down at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Tom Eshelman could show them that he needs to be promoted down the line and force something to happen.
That is not imminent, but the Phillies cannot afford to consistently wreck their bullpen over poor starting performances from Velasquez. He needs to show the Phillies once and for all in 2018 if he belongs or not. If he does not, they will move on.