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Vince Velasquez: ‘This is my last opportunity that I could possibly have’

Vince Velasquez’s future with the Phillies is uncertain. (Cheryl Pursell)

Vince Velasquez was very forthcoming Tuesday afternoon about the trials and tribulations he’s experienced during the first five years of his tenure with the Philadelphia Phillies, and how he thinks that will benefit him moving forward.

Less than three months before his 29th birthday, Velasquez finds himself competing for one of the two final spots in the Phillies starting rotation. Given that Matt Moore and Chase Anderson were guaranteed major league deals this past offseason and that top prospect Spencer Howard is also in the mix, Velasquez is probably on the outside looking in currently.

That could mean he begins the season in the bullpen. It’s also possible that he’s traded to another team. There was a chance that Velasquez was non-tendered this past offseason, but ultimately, the Phillies did elect to bring him back for his final year of arbitration eligibility. Still, Velasquez had time to reflect this past offseason about his first half decade in Philadelphia, and the possibility of life after the Phillies.

“That [potentially getting non-tendered] is kind of out of my control,” Velasquez said. “I knew what I was going up against – I knew I was going to be in a tight situation of whether they did want me or whether they didn’t. I was OK with the fact that if they were to let me go, then I understand and I would tip off my cap and thank the organization for everything that they’ve presented for me.

“But I’m also very thankful at the same time because I do know my capabilities…I do know what I have to offer and present to you guys or as a Phillie organization, to the people in Philadelphia itself. Coming into 2016, I was supposed to be this potential ace guy after that trade for [Ken] Giles and whatnot. But at the same time, sh*t happens. And again, I’ve come to the conclusion and realized that I didn’t make the best of those opportunities, but this is my last opportunity that I could possibly have, and I definitely don’t want to end on a bad note at all. Whether it’s in a starting position or it’s in a relieving position, I’m aware of that, but I’m going to go out and shove and try to win something and help [give] the organization what they at least deserve by giving back to me. ”

It remains possible that an injury opens up a spot in the rotation for Velasquez, or the Phillies really are keen on his upside as a relief pitcher. But for a team with quite a few non-roster invitees that could make the club, clearing his $4 million off of the books would help create some space under the $210 million luxury tax threshold, which Spotrac estimates that the Phillies are just north of $12 million away from currently.

As much as Velasquez may be prepared to embrace one last shot with the Phillies, it’s hardly certain he’ll get one.

“I can’t guarantee that,” Velasquez admitted. “But I will let my numbers show. And again, that’s where I’m establishing and trying to convey that I have this conviction and this trust in myself.”

So far, the numbers tell a very familiar story. Velasquez, as he often has been, was excellent in his first spring training appearance last week, striking out three over two hitless innings in relief against the New York Yankees. In Tuesday’s Grapefruit League loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, Velasquez struggled with his command, throwing 20 strikes and 19 balls in 1 2/3 innings. The veteran righty gave up two runs, one of which was earned, while walking three. An inability to build on success from one start to another has plagued what’s been a frustrating tenure in Philadelphia for Velasquez.

Make no mistake, there would be interest around the league in Velasquez as a reclamation project, whether it’s as a starter or reliever. With that in mind, it’s fair to wonder if we aren’t watching the waning days of Velasquez’s time in the Phillies organization.


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