Velasquez ready to 'get after it' this spring

Buchanan also out to prove himself to Phillies

Velasquez ready to 'get after it' this spring

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Vincent Velasquez does not believe in a slow build during Spring Training.

The coveted prize of the Ken Giles trade came out firing Wednesday in a 4-4 tie with the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. His fastball sat in the 95-96 mph range throughout his two innings of work.

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"It's just within my nature," Velasquez said. "I'm the kid that likes to get after it. I'm competitive, no matter what it is, no matter what sport. I've always been competitive growing up. So even that little kid in the neighborhood, I've always been on top. I try to keep it that way."

Velasquez allowed three hits, three runs (two earned) and struck out three. He threw a scoreless third inning before he allowed three runs in the fourth. He hit Josh Donaldson with a pitch to start the frame, then allowed a two-run triple to Ryan Goins and an RBI single to former Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown.

"Right out of the gate, you've got to be consistent," Velasquez said. "I lacked that a little bit, but it's a work in progress. After last year, what I've experienced, it's been getting a little bit better."

But forget about Wednesday's results for a moment. Velasquez is the favorite to be the Phillies' No. 5 starter come Opening Day. Philly loves his arm. He certainly showed that life against the Blue Jays.

"I get after it," Velasquez said. "You have all offseason to prepare, so I don't see why you should baby it. I've had plenty of bullpen sessions and a lot of [live batting practice sessions]. I've been kind of the same way all the way through, so I'll face myself tomorrow until my next outing and get after it again."

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said he expects Aaron Nola, Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff and Charlie Morton to be the first four pitchers in his rotation. Mackanin got a look at two more No. 5 candidates Wednesday in David Buchanan and Brett Oberholtzer.

Buchanan allowed one hit and struck out one in two scoreless innings. Oberholtzer, who the Phillies also acquired in the Giles deal, allowed one walk and struck out two in two scoreless innings. Oberholtzer is out of options, so he figures to make either the rotation or bullpen.

Buchanan has plenty to prove this spring. He went 2-9 with a 6.99 ERA in 15 starts last season with the Phillies. He said he battled himself mentally last year, beating himself up and focusing on the wrong things.

"I refused to let that happen again," Buchanan said.

It is why he connected with Jim Brogan, who has been a performance specialist for Cole Hamels for years.

Brogan is from Philadelphia, but he has worked near San Diego for some time. He works with people about improving their focus, concentration and gaining that mental edge, whether it is in sports, business, etc.

Buchanan met Brogan at a baseball camp run by Hamels in Philadelphia in the offseason. Buchanan and Brogan have been working together a little more than a month, speaking on the phone two to three times a week. Buchanan also just finished "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg.

"Right now, I'm mentally solid," Buchanan said. "I'm very positive. I'm very confident in what I have to bring to the table, so I'm excited for the competition. It makes it fun. It's nice to come in here and have something to work for, having something to compete for."

But Buchanan and everybody else know in the end that the results matter most. Velasquez, Oberholtzer, Buchanan, Adam Morgan and others will have to pitch well to earn consideration as Opening Day nears.

"I don't know what's in his mind," Mackanin said about Buchanan. "All I care about is if he commands the ball, whether he's got his mental coach or not, I don't care. This is the last stop. You've got to do it, or you're not going to be here. So whatever it takes to stay here is all I care about."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.