Vince Velasquez is a pitcher who has dealt with a lot of injuries in the past.
He underwent Tommy John surgery back in 2010, which knocked him out baseball for two years, he spent time on the disabled list in 2016 because of a biceps strain, and he hit the DL twice last season — first in May with a right elbow flexor strain — then a few weeks later when he felt numbness in the middle finger of his pitching hand.
Those injuries were the main reasons why he made just 15 starts last year, with a 5.13 ERA in 72.0 innings of work. His velocity was a career-low 94.2 mph, and his walk and strikeout rates were way off, too.
This year, Velasquez appears to be fully healthy, and is having a half-decent season. In eight starts, his ERA is a very high 5.05, but a 4.34 FIP and 3.85 xFIP tell the tale of a pitcher who has had some bad luck. His 10.98 K/9 is way up from last year’s 8.50 and his 3.07 BB/9 is far lower than last season’s 4.25.
Velasquez is scheduled to take on the Orioles in Baltimore on Wednesday, but on Tuesday, he dropped a bombshell to The Philly Voice’s Joseph Santoliquito in which he admitted to having surgery to remove a rib as part of a diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS).
“I had that surgery this offseason. I had that thoracic outlet syndrome, but it wasn’t really labeled thoracic outlet syndrome. They removed my first rib, but whatever. What I’m saying is the opportunity to bounce back and stay in the game and not have any injuries, I’m actually more thankful about that part than anything else. I can say this is the healthiest I’ve been in five years – it’s prolonging to that point.”
After being shut down last August, general manager Matt Klentak said Velasquez had undergone surgery on his finger to correct the numbness issue, but denied the procedure was to fix TOS. As Santoliquito reports, the Phillies maintained that denial despite Velasquez going to see a TOS specialist last summer.
TOS has afflicted numerous pitchers in baseball, most recently Matt Harvey, who has never been the same pitcher since suffering TOS in his pitching hand. Jaime Garcia, Josh Beckett, Chris Carpenter, Shaun Marcum and Matt Harrison are other pitchers who have dealt with this problem as well.
Happily, it does appear as if Velasquez’ claims that he’s never been healthier are true.
His fastball is averaging 95.1 mph, the highest it’s been since he joined the Phils, and in his last start, he struck out 12 San Francisco Giants in six innings. In half his starts, he’s pitched at least six innings and given up no more than three runs in any of them, and also has the 6th-lowest hard-hit rate among 91 qualified starters, at 24.8%.
The big mystery is why the Phillies did not tell anyone that he had undergone surgery to remove a rib that was due to a medical condition that has derailed other pitchers’ careers in the past. It’s a bizarre omission, to say the least.
The Philly Voice have updated their quote of Velasquez to clarify that he said he did NOT have a rib removed:
“I had that surgery this offseason. I had that thoracic outlet syndrome, but it wasn’t really labeled thoracic outlet syndrome – they didn’t have to remove my first rib or whatever. What I’m saying is the opportunity to bounce back and stay in the game and not have any injuries, I’m actually more thankful about that part than anything else. I can say this is the healthiest I’ve been in five years, it’s prolonging to that point, yeah.”