Vince Velasquez: 'I'm not even doing my part, this is horrible'

Vince Velasquez: 'I'm not even doing my part, this is horrible'

BOX SCORE

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.

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."

Maikel Franco's benching continues as Howie Kendrick readies to play 3rd base in minors

Maikel Franco's benching continues as Howie Kendrick readies to play 3rd base in minors

The benching of Maikel Franco lasted for a second day Wednesday.

When will it end?

"It's a day-to-day thing," Pete Mackanin said. "No specific plan."

Franco is hitting just .221 with a .281 on-base percentage and a .377 slugging percentage.

Mackanin first benched his third baseman/cleanup hitter on Tuesday. At the time, the manager said he was trying to take some heat off the slumping Franco and let him clear his mind, but the overriding reason for the benching is simple: Mackanin is looking for Franco to make the fundamental adjustments in his swing that will lead to more production.

"At this level you've got to produce," Mackanin said Tuesday. "You want to play, you've got to hit and they have to understand that. Nobody is here on scholarship.

"As much as he works in the cage and on the field in batting practice and does it right, when he gets in the game his head is still flying and his bat is coming out of the zone.

"I can't teach you to keep your head in there. I can tell you to do it, but you have to do it on your own and he's got to figure it out. … If you make outs the same way over and over, it's not going to change."

Franco on Wednesday said he understands the benching. He is disappointed in his production.

"Yes, I'm disappointed," he said. "I know I can produce better and help the team more. Nobody wants to be in this situation, hitting .220. The only thing to do is try to get better.

"I think any good hitter hitting .220 is going to be disappointed. I will not stop working and doing what I have to to get better."

Typically, a manager, especially one such as Mackanin, whose strength is communication, would speak to a player and lay out the reasons for an extended benching.

But Mackanin has chosen to let the lineup card do the talking on this one. He'd like to speak with Franco about the situation, but wants the player to come to him.

It doesn't sound like that's going to happen.

"They understand and I understand, you know?" Franco said. "I'm not the guy to go into the manager's office and say, 'Why am I not in the lineup?' I want to play. He knows what he's doing and I know what I'm capable of doing. Every single day when I come in, I'm 100 percent mentally ready to be in the lineup and I'm ready to play. If I'm not in the lineup, I have to get relaxed and just try to do everything I can to make an adjustment so when I'm in the lineup, I'll do my job."

Andres Blanco played third base in place of Franco on Tuesday and Wednesday. If Franco doesn't improve when he gets back in the lineup — whenever that may be — there could soon be another player in the mix at third base.

Howie Kendrick began a minor-league rehab assignment at Lehigh Valley on Wednesday night. He played left field in that game. Mackanin said the rehab stint would last four games and that Kendrick would also play first and third base.

Do the math on that one.

Franco can be optioned to the minors so that could also be a possibility if his problems persist.

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Hellickson good to go; Franco sits again

Phillies-Rockies 5 things: Hellickson good to go; Franco sits again

Phillies (15-28) vs. Rockies (30-17)
7:05 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App

The Phillies' nightmarish skid continued Tuesday as they dropped a second straight game to a Rockies rookie starting pitcher.

They've been outscored 16-3 in the first two games of this four-game series against a Colorado club that has the best record in the NL and more road wins (17) than the Phillies have total wins.

Let's take a look at Game 3:

1. Hellickson good to go
The Phillies got a scare last Friday night when Jeremy Hellickson hurt his lower back during his seventh-inning at-bat, but they avoided disaster when it was diagnosed as mere stiffness as opposed to something more serious like a strained oblique.

Hellickson said that night and again the next morning that he felt fine and wouldn't miss a start. The Phillies are thankful for that given the inefficiencies of their rotation, which has just 16 quality starts in 43 games, third-fewest in the majors.

Hellickson (5-1, 3.44) was locked in last weekend against a weak Pirates lineup but this is much more of a challenge. Don't expect him to set down 16 of 17 batters the way he did in Pittsburgh.

The Phillies are 8-1 when Hellickson pitches this season and 7-27 when anyone else does. The only loss in a Hellickson start came against the Cubs on May 2, the first of a three-start skid in which Hellickson allowed 12 runs in 13⅔ innings. Of those 12 runs, 11 scored via home runs. He allowed seven homers in those three starts after giving up just two in his first five.

The Rockies present a lot of challenges and one of them is that they've been the second-best team in the majors this season against the changeup, which is Hellickson's go-to pitch. Only the Marlins (.312) have a higher batting average vs. changeups than the Rockies (.286).

(For reference, the Phillies are 28th in baseball against changeups with a .201 batting average.)

Then again, not all changeups are the same, and Hellickson did limit the Marlins to one run on seven hits over six innings when he faced them April 27.

Current Rockies are just 10 for 56 (.179) off Hellickson. Ian Desmond has the only homer (2 for 5, HR, double).

2. Blackmon the Destroyer
Charlie Blackmon, good lord.

The guy has seven home runs in his last five games at Citizens Bank Park. Over that span — Aug. 12, 2016 through last night — Blackmon has more homers at CBP than any Phillie.

Think about how ridiculous that is. Aaron Altherr and Ryan Howard are next with six homers in 15 and 17 games, respectively. Then comes Freddy Galvis with five in 26 games.

3. Fading fast
At 15-28, the Phillies are on pace to finish 57-105. They've dropped 19 of 23 and now have the second-worst record in the majors, ahead of only the 16-31 Padres.

The offense has been completely devoid of life lately. It's not like these guys are going out and playing with zero energy, but when you don't hit, it's always going to seem like that.

Since May 12, the Phillies are 2-9. They've hit .225/.273/.345 as a team for the second-worst OBP and OPS, ahead of only the Mariners.

They've been middle of the pack with runners in scoring position over that span, but they have just 89 plate appearances with RISP, which is seventh-fewest in baseball.

A lot of this can be attributed to the top of the order. Cesar Hernandez is 9 for 54 (.167) with no extra-base hits over his last 14 games. And that vaunted 1-2 in the Phillies' order — a duo which hit close to .350 in April — is down to .282.

4. Scouting Chatwood
The Phillies face 27-year-old right-hander Tyler Chatwood (3-6, 5.09).

He was the Rockies' best starting pitcher last season when he went 12-9 with a 3.87 ERA in 158 innings. He walked 70 and those control issues have continued this season — 27 walks in 53 innings.

He's been especially wild lately, walking 19 in 21⅔ innings this month. 

Chatwood averages 95 mph with his fastball and sinker and 88-90 with his slider and changeup. He also throws a high-70s curveball.

He faced the Phillies twice last year and went 0-2, allowing 10 runs (eight earned) in nine innings. Interestingly, though, no active Phillie has an extra-base hit against him.

Hopefully, the Phils will be able to make Chatwood work tonight and take advantage of their opportunities with men on base. They stranded the bases loaded three times last night.

5. Franco sits again
Maikel Franco and Cameron Rupp are sitting again. Pete Mackanin wants the extremely inconsistent, wild-swinging Franco to sit back and watch for a few days to regroup. He also wants to see some more of Andrew Knapp after a rough defensive week from Cameron Rupp.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Aaron Altherr, LF
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Andres Blanco, 3B
6. Odubel Herrera, CF
7. Andrew Knapp, C
8. Michael Saunders, RF
9. Jeremy Hellickson, P