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Vince Velasquez or Nick Pivetta will rejoin the Phillies rotation next week

Vince Velasquez could be making his first start since early May (Ian D’Andrea).

The Philadelphia Phillies optioned LHP Cole Irvin back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley Thursday after he allowed seven runs in 4.2 against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday. The move wasn’t simply designed to give the Phillies another bullpen arm at the tail end of a stretch of 17 games in 17 days. The next time the No. 5 spot roles around in the starting rotation, it won’t be Irvin pitching out of it.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said after Thursday’s win over the Cubs that either Nick Pivetta or Vince Velasquez will pitch next Tuesday when the Phillies host the St. Louis Cardinals. Neither pitcher has had a particularly good start to 2019.

Pivetta’s last start at the major league level came on April 16 against the Washington Nationals, when he pitched five innings while giving up three runs. He was then demoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he has gone 4-1 in six games with a 3.41 ERA, striking out 50 batters while walking 20. Pivetta did run into some trouble in his latest start for the IronPigs, giving up three runs in five innings, in addition to walking four batters.

Before being demoted to Triple-A, Pivetta had an unsightly 8.35 ERA in four games started. It was a surprising start for a pitcher that had a strong Spring Training, which led many to tab him as a possible breakout player for this Phillies.

Velasquez made his last start on May 6 (ironically against the Cardinals). He pitched just four innings, giving up four hits and five runs. On the season, Velasquez has a 1-2 record with a 3.86 ERA in seven games, six of them starts.

It will be interesting to see what happens to whichever of the two isn’t tabbed to join the rotation next week. If Pivetta is ultimately recalled, Velasquez could be sent on a rehab stint. Pitchers can stay on rehab appearances for up to 30 days. If a spot in the rotation doesn’t open up in that time span, Velasquez could join the bullpen or be optioned to Triple-A. Meanwhile, if Velasquez is selected to join the rotation, Kapler pondered the idea of using Pivetta as a reliever earlier this month.

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