After throwing just two pitches at the start of Wednesday’s scruff-strangling 8-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs, every Phillies fan was waiting for word about how bad starting pitcher Vincent Velasquez’s arm injury, initially announced as "right biceps soreness," would be.
Good news: Turns out, it may not be so awful, as the subsequent MRI came back "pretty clean." Bad news: Velasquez continues to add to his C.V., at the tender age of 24, as "oft-injured."
Vince Velasquez injuries:— Corey Seidman (@CoreySeidmanCSN) June 10, 2016
• Tommy John, missed 2011/most of '12
• Groin, out 2 months in 2014
• Lat, out spring training 2015
• Bicep, 2016
This afternoon, the Phillies placed their fast-throwing, high-pitch counting young starter on the 15-day disabled list. In his place, they recalled right-handed relief pitcher Luis Garcia from Lehigh Valley. The Phillies are expected to carry Garcia through the weekend series at Washington and then to Toronto, then make a move to bring up a starter (Zach Eflin!) to take Velasquez's turn in the rotation on Tuesday against the Blue Jays, per the beat writers.
Mackanin says Velasquez's MRI was pretty clean. #Phillies will "probably" call someone up from minors to start in his spot Tues. in Toronto.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) June 10, 2016
Garcia has been pretty good so far in AAA, appearing in relief in 21 games in the IronPigs, during which he posted a 2.77 ERA with 13 walks and 25 strikeouts. For a few days, anyway, he could spell the struggling Hector Neris, if by chance the Phillies get to a hold situation. Either way, the guy gets a break. But I digress; this is about Velasquez.
You have to give both Velasquez and the Phillies some credit for taking what appears to be a good precautionary move; furthermore, by all accounts he was open with the team about how his arm was feeling. And it appears, with a little rest, that he'll be back near the end of the month. Maybe? We'll see.
The only piece missing was finding out which of their AAA starters the Phillies would call upon to go to Toronto and, well, welcome to the big leagues kid. Tough one out of the 'chute, kid, but this is genuinely exciting for prospect followers.
Eflin has been very good for the IronPigs, with a 5-2 record after 11 starts, a 2.90 ERA, 11 walks and 68 strikeouts. To make lemonade out of these lemons, one of the best parts of the 2016 Phillies has been their ability to reach down to their AAA affiliate and bring up someone you actually give a damn about, who might have a future in the game and not, say, in retail or insurance sales. Not that this isn't an honorable endeavor, mind you; I just don't care to watch it so much on the teevee.
There's some sad poetry in this move, as Eflin was acquired in the Jimmy Rollins deal last year with the Dodgers. And look what happened on the very same day:
Anyway, good luck, Zach! Welcome to the show! Ha, ha! That dude over there likes to flip his bat and disrespect you! But don't worry, the Phanatic totally pwned him, so you can too!
Longer term, even if Velasquez recovers, the news is simply unsettling. This is a young pitcher who, as entertaining as he is, throws hard, has had a lot of injuries, and genuinely struggles to put away hitters with a strategy other than "throw it faster." The so-far centerpiece of the Ken Giles trade last December has shown obvious talent, as in his 16-strikeout April 14 game against the Padres, but since then has struggled to get out of the fifth inning.
Something's bound to give. Phillies fans hope it's Velasquez's repertoire or approach before it's his right arm.