Behold Vince Velasquez, the only ballplayer in the history of ballplayers who refused the invitation to give a sports writer the middle finger.
Velasquez started for the Phillies on Thursday night and lasted just one inning, long enough to give up a three-run home run and take the loss in a humiliating 10-0 defeat at the hands of the New York Mets (see Instant Replay). The Phillies were out-hit, 13-4, in the game and their hitters struck out 13 times, nine of them coming against Jacob deGrom, who improved to 6-0 in 10 career starts against the Phillies.
New addition Rhys Hoskins went hitless with a walk and handled three chances in left field in just his fourth game at the position as a professional.
Now, on to the enigmatic Velasquez ...
He got the first two outs of the ballgame before giving up a double, a walk and a three-run home run to Wilmer Flores on a low-octane, 92-mph fastball. Velasquez needed 32 pitches to get through the inning and did not come out for the second. He was replaced by Mark Leiter Jr., who toughed-out five innings of one-run ball, did not walk a batter and struck out seven.
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The team's official word was that Velasquez left with numbness in his right middle finger. After the game, manager Pete Mackanin said that Velasquez had an issue with the finger before the game, but was deemed OK to pitch.
Moments later, in the postgame clubhouse, Velasquez described the issue as "just a little bit of bruising."
The pitcher went on to say, "I was aware of it the whole time. It just gave me a little bit of pain. I tried to go out there and see how it felt the first time, the first inning, and it was rough.
"It just came out of nowhere. It was just a weird feeling. It's kind of like one of those blisters where you just automatically get it. Somehow, someway it just appears."
So, it was a blister?
"No," Velasquez said. "It's just bruising. It's just ... it's just bruising."
Velasquez was asked if he was hit on the finger prior to the start.
"No," he said. "I don't even know how it occurred. Again, how does a blister occur? I mean, I'm just throwing a ball all the time. But at this point, again, it's just a bruising. I can't say exactly what it is because we don't even know. It is bruised. At this point, we'll take it as is and move forward tomorrow and see how it reacts tomorrow."
Velasquez said the problem affected his ability to grip the baseball.
"As you can see, there were some pitches that were wild," he said. "They're all over the place. They ended up going to the backstop. Completely missed the glove. I had no control of it. Clearly, it affected me."
As Velasquez spoke with reporters, he kept his hands behind his back. He was asked what part of the finger was affected.
"The middle finger," he said. "Just the whole middle finger. Just the tip."
Velasquez said he did not ice the bruised finger after he came out of the game because that was too painful. He said the finger was not wrapped. When a reporter asked to see the finger, Velasquez declined.
This is not the first time that Velasquez, a talented but inconsistent 25-year-old, has left a start early with an injury this season. He did not make it out of the second inning May 30 in Miami and missed six weeks with a elbow strain. He spent time on the disabled list last season with a right biceps strain. In 2015, while with Houston, he missed time with a lat strain. The year before that, he missed time with groin strain, and early in his career had Tommy John surgery. That's quite a list of health problems for the power-armed righty.
"It's very frustrating," Velasquez said. "Again, going back to two years ago, numerous years in the minor leagues, dealing with tons of injuries. I've been very injury prone, so it's tough. You don't want to be labeled as that person. Again, it's just my fault, I guess, as far as not taking care of myself. But this is one of those things I can't control. It's a simple bruising that's really affected me or that affected me today. We'll see how it goes tomorrow."
Velasquez was unsure whether he'd make his next start.
"From where we stand right now, I don't know," he said. "Have faith and be optimistic. We'll shoot for next start. But where we stand right now, I'm clueless just as much they are, just as much as you guys are."