Vince Velasquez is fully aware of the perception of him: hard thrower, electric stuff, but not enough pitchability to get quick outs that enable him to go deep into games.
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He was extremely hard on himself in the Phillies' clubhouse after Wednesday's 5-4 loss in which he lasted just five innings and threw 100 pitches.
Two starts into his second season with the Phils, Velasquez has thrown 194 pitches in eight innings. He's been racking up the strikeouts, 17 in all, but he's falling behind in too many counts, walking too many batters and just generally not putting the Phillies in a favorable situation.
"Terrible," he said of his performance Wednesday. "The first two starts, this is not the way to go. I'm not even giving my team a chance to win. I'm not even doing my part. This is horrible."
Velasquez gave up a first-inning run but settled in during the second. He was painting on the outside corner with his fastball and he also had his curveball working.
The game was close heading into the top of the fifth when the Mets had the bottom of the order due up. Velasquez hit eighth batter Travis d'Arnaud, walked pitcher Zack Wheeler, walked Michael Conforto and all three of them came around to score. The Mets built a five-run lead that they were able to cling to even after Maikel Franco's sixth-inning grand slam.
"Mentally, coming into the game I was locked in," Velasquez said. "I had the mindset of going seven innings today. But the high pitch count shows otherwise. … I just put myself in situations that I shouldn't. That's one of the things I need to work on -- not be too fine with my stuff."
One at-bat in particular that stuck out to Velasquez was Conforto's fifth-inning walk that loaded the bases. Velasquez appeared to have him struck out on a fastball right down the middle, but home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt obviously saw something different.
Regardless of the result of that plate appearance, Velasquez would have attacked him differently if he could have the opportunity again.
"That's not my part of my repertoire. I'm trying to throw a front-door two-seam fastball, backdoor two-seam, trying to freeze him and I'm not known for that," Velasquez said. "That's not my repertoire, so I don't know why (I did it). I'm glad I recognize stuff like that. Sometimes the heat of the moment just gets the best of me. I've got to be sharper with my stuff."
Velasquez doesn't want to take much credit for all of his strikeouts because they mean less than the walks, the 9.00 ERA and the two losses. But getting all of these swings-and-misses does help him remain confident that he has the ability to make a difference on a pitching staff.
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin is content to wait it out with Velasquez because the 24-year-old is just too talented. Plus, what is the other option? This is a non-contending team building for the future and Velasquez should have a place in that future somewhere.
"There's no other alternative," Mackanin said. "Hopefully during the course of this season, he's going to show improvement. I have a lot of confidence in him making progress during the course of the year. He knows what he has to do. Sometimes he maybe just tries to do too much instead (of trusting) that powerful fastball. Just go right after them. I think he'll progress during the course of the season."
The Phillies are exhibiting patience with Velasquez but the pitcher himself knows he doesn't have forever to show he can actually go deep into games regularly.
Velasquez has now made 26 starts as a Phillie and lasted past the sixth inning just three times.
"There's a turning point somewhere and it'll come around," he said. "I'm not giving up too quick but I know the consequences if I don't do my part. I'm fully aware of that."