MIAMI -- Vince Velasquez came out firing Tuesday night. He threw four crackling fastballs in retiring Miami Marlins leadoff man Dee Gordon on a fly ball to left field. Then Giancarlo Stanton strutted to the plate like the baddest man in the ballpark. Velasquez dispatched the powerful Marlin on four pitches, the final one a 95-mph heater that Stanton could only look at.
Some three hours later, after the Phillies' latest defeat, a 7-2 loss, was complete, Velasquez looked back at that high-octane fastball to Stanton and said, "That kind of ended the night."
Velasquez felt numbness in his elbow after that pitch. He soldiered on, got the third out in the first inning and came out for the second. But when Marcell Ozuna clubbed a 90-mph fastball over the left-field wall and Justin Bour followed with a ringing double to right on an 88-mph fastball it was clear something was wrong with Velasquez. Catcher Cameron Rupp motioned to manager Pete Mackanin and he and athletic trainer Scott Sheridan made their way to the mound. After a brief conversation, Velasquez was removed from the game.
The soon-to-be-25-year-old right-hander, the most promising arm on the Phillies' starting staff, was diagnosed with flexor strain in his elbow. Mackanin called the injury mild, but Velasquez will be placed on the disabled list Wednesday and undergo a battery of tests.
Flexor strains are repairable, sometimes with surgery, sometimes without (see story). Velasquez was the picture of calm as he discussed the injury after the game, which, by the way, was the Phillies' 24th loss in the last 30 games, leaving them with a majors-worst 17-33 record and putting them on pace for 107 losses, their most since 1961 (see Instant Replay).
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"I'm not worried, not at all," Velasquez said. "I've dealt with this before. It's a little flexor strain. Some people bounce back in a week, two weeks. I had it in the minor leagues. You know your body. I'm very optimistic. I'm not worried at all."
Medical diagnostics will offer the best read on the severity of Velasquez's injury. Whatever the outcome, there's no way he's back pitching in two weeks. No way. Given the industry's overall concern with pitching arms, it's difficult to imagine him being back before the All-Star break.
Velasquez came to the Phillies as the centerpiece of the December 2015 trade that sent reliever Ken Giles to Houston. The deal was held up several days and reconfigured to include more players because the Phillies had concerns about Velasquez's health history; he had Tommy John surgery in 2010. Those concerns were the reason the Phillies shut Velasquez down for the final month of last season. The Phils love his power stuff and view him as a rotation building block.
Now, there are new concerns about the health of his arm.
"I don't know," Mackanin said. "He said he didn't think it was that bad, but we're going to get him an MRI and look into it."
Mackanin, numb from all the losing, paused.
"Not a good night," he said.
In addition to losing a pitcher, the Phillies were barely competitive in falling to 6-21 in the month of May. They had just two hits in the game. Over the last 10 games, they've been held to four or fewer hits six times.
Think about that for a second and try not to vomit.
"You need more than two hits to win a game," Mackanin said.
The Phils were held to four hits in Monday night's loss to the Marlins. Tuesday night's loss ensured that the Phils will lose 10 straight series for the first time since 1997.
"When you're going bad it just snowballs and we can't seem to climb out," Mackanin said. "We need a good game where everybody contributes. I know we're better than what we're doing. I know we're much better than this. I just can't figure it out. We just keep battling. It's too early to get down about it. Right now I'm not happy. But we're better than this."