Phillies pitchers entered the start of a seven-game homestand on Monday night with the third-worst ERA in baseball, 4.78. Starting pitchers went more than six innings just 10 times in the first 41 games and the bullpen had given up 27 homers (second most in the majors) and blown nine saves (third most in the majors) over that span.
In other words, lack of effective pitching was a big reason the Phils entered Monday having lost 17 of their previous 21 games and sitting at 15-26 overall.
The Phillies' struggles on the mound have led to natural questions about pitching coach Bob McClure's performance and job status.
General manager Matt Klentak answered those questions with a strong endorsement of McClure before Monday night's game.
"Not on Bob, as far as I'm concerned," Klentak said when asked where the blame lay. "There can be organizational blame if we want to look at it that way. It's never about one person.
"One of the things that is so good about Bob, he is outstanding at working with young players and understanding the long game with young players - how we make sure we get enough rest and how we take care of them. He's been through this before. He was a key part in the development of a lot of the (Kansas City) Royals pitchers that led to the successes they've had over the last few years. So I'm absolutely not pointing any fingers at Bob.
"The topic of Bob's job security has not come up because it's not an issue."
Vince Velasquez might be the most talented of McClure's pupils, but he has struggled to turn his outstanding potential into success. In his second season in the Phillies' rotation, the hard-throwing righty has recorded a 5.98 ERA in eight starts and gotten through the sixth inning just three times (see story). His starts have frequently crashed as his pitch counts have risen and he has had to go through a lineup multiple times.
Velasquez's problems have led to almost nonstop speculation that he could end up at the back of a bullpen someday, but that's not happening any time soon, according to Klentak.
"For right now, we're committed to finding out what he can do in the rotation," Klentak said. "We've seen it. We've seen it in the early parts of last year and we've seen it in parts of this year where he has that 'ah-ha' moment where this guy is in the role that he's meant to be in. It hasn't been a clear path exactly. He's had some bumps along the way. But most pitchers do, especially when they get to the big leagues for as young as he was when he got here. We are very much committed to him being a starter. If over the course of time, we're forced to make an adjustment, then we will. We're not going to be rigid in our decision-making. But right now, we're not there."