Vince Velasquez may have bounced around between the starting rotation and bullpen last season for the Philadelphia Phillies, but don’t get it twisted – he sees himself as a starting pitcher.
“No, I’m expecting to be a starter,” Velasquez said on Tuesday when asked about his potential role. “I mean I still have that mindset of being a starter. I understand that I was in the bullpen last year but we didn’t have that power arm in the back-end.”
The 27-year-old right-hander was making an appearance at the Baseballtown Caravan at the Crowne Plaza Reading as part of the Phillies Winter Tour. Velasquez was in attendance along with outfielder Roman Quinn and new Phillies manager Joe Girardi.
Girardi spoke highly of Velasquez but did not guarantee his newly inherited pitcher a spot in the rotation just yet.
“He’s going to compete for a spot like a lot of other guys,” Girardi said. “…We’ll see how it plays out. I expect him to be a huge contributor for us this year. I just can’t tell you exactly where it’s going to be.”
Competition is something that Girardi thinks will have a good effect for his team. It is also a challenge that Velasquez is ready to face once again in his fifth season as a Phillie.
“It kind of reminds me of ’16 when I was competing against [Adam] Morgan,” Velasquez said, comparing this upcoming season to his first in Philadelphia when he earned his starting spot out of Spring Training. “Every day is always a competition. Every day is a grind. You’re still fighting for a spot. Nothing is really guaranteed in my position.”
Velasquez, who had a 4.91 ERA in 23 starts and 10 relief outings, certainly envisions himself winning the fifth rotation spot to enter the season. But while he would prefer to be a starter, he is still willing to do what he can to help the team in any role, just as he did when he moved to the bullpen in 2019.
“You already know me. I’m ready to help the team at any given cost. I mean, sh–, I played left field,” he said with a laugh.
Although it is a positive that Velasquez is willing to play the outfield in a pinch, the Phillies would benefit the most from him pitching as a starter and doing it effectively. The starting rotation was one of the biggest weaknesses for the team last season after it was one of its strengths for most of 2018. A productive Velasquez could help answer many of the questions that remain about this rotation going forward.
Velasquez plans on using any means necessary to make sure this is the year he figures it out and can be the answer to those questions. He emphasized the importance of not being too predictable, something that he believes hurt him last season. Velasquez said that he has spoken to new pitching coach Bryan Price a good bit this offseason and is excited to work with him. He is also willing to use analytics if they can help improve his game.
Velasquez wants to prove his abilities this season and be an important part of the team. He wants to overcome doubt and make an impact as a starter. But before he can do that there is an obstacle in the way—he needs to win the job in March.
“I’m pretty much ready for anything in my way or in my direction,” he said. “At this point, I’m very optimistic and I’m ready for a whole new year.”
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