Velasquez key return in Phillies' trade of Giles

Right-hander needs to show this season he can pitch in Majors

Velasquez key return in Phillies' trade of Giles

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- It took Matt Klentak just a couple months to make his first bold move with the Phillies.

The new general manager traded Ken Giles and Minor League infielder Jonathan Arauz to Houston for five pitchers: right-handers Vince Velasquez, Mark Appel, Thomas Eshelman and Harold Arauz and left-hander Brett Oberholtzer. The Phillies badly wanted Velasquez in the deal, and Monday they named him their No. 5 starter.

"We like Velasquez's power arm," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.

Velasquez is the Phillies' X factor in 2016.

The Phillies see big-time potential in Velasquez because of his stuff. If he pitches as advertised this season, the Phillies' rotation could set up nicely for the future, particularly if Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff pick up where they finished as rookies last year. Going into 2017 believing in Nola, Eickhoff and Velasquez would give the Phillies more room for error with prospects like Jake Thompson, Zach Eflin and Appel.

Now, nobody seems to be expecting Velasquez to make 33 starts this season. He pitched just 88 2/3 innings last season and pitched a career-high 124 2/3 innings in 2013.

The Phillies want to be careful with him. They need to keep him healthy.

The original four-player return for Giles included Houston outfield prospect Derek Fisher, but Appel and Arauz were late additions after sources said the Phillies had concerns about Velasquez's physical. Velasquez had Tommy John surgery on Sept. 22, 2010.

"I'm healthy as an ox," Velasquez said.

No issues with his shoulder?

"I've never had any problems with my shoulder," he said. "Any type of soreness I've had was in the biceps or triceps. Nothing in the shoulder."

That is a good thing. Because for the Phillies to speed up their rebuild, they need Velasquez to pay off. That does not mean he needs to immediately be one of the top young pitchers in the National League. But he needs to show he belongs. He needs to show there is no doubt he is part of the Phillies' future.

That is why the Phillies insisted on getting him, after all.

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.