Phillies being careful with Velasquez

23-year-old struck out 16 in Thursday's shutout of Padres

Phillies being careful with Velasquez

PHILADELPHIA -- Vince Velasquez had one of the best starts in Phillies history on Thursday.

He struck out 16 and walked none in a shutout victory over the Padres at Citizens Bank Park. He earned a Game Score of 97, which is tied for the eighth-highest score in the regular season in franchise history. But while the Phillies' front office loved Velasquez's performance, it is being mindful of his workload moving forward.

"Organizationally, the health of our pitchers is going to be very important to us," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said before Friday night's game against the Nationals. "We're not going to come out in mid-April and start announcing certain innings limits or pitch limits or things of that nature. But it is something we're keenly aware of and it's extremely important to the future of this franchise, so we're going to be certainly monitoring it all season long."

16 K's sweet for Velasquez

Pitchers like Stephen Strasburg, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom found themselves under microscopes in recent seasons because of their respective organizations' desires to limit their workloads, despite the potential impacts on their postseasons.

The Phillies are unlikely to be in the postseason hunt in August and September, so their decision will not be nearly as scrutinized, but a young pitcher's workload is an interesting topic. Velasquez, 23, pitched a career-high 124 2/3 innings in 2013, which he split between Class A Quad Cities and Double-A Lancaster, so it is highly unlikely he is pitching seven to nine innings every five days until the end of the season.

Velasquez on three-hit shutout

But how the Phillies handle it remains to be seen.

"It's about workload and we can define workload in a lot of different ways," Klentak said. "But it's about managing that."

A University of Waterloo study published last year in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness determined that innings limits had no positive effect on preventing the recurrence of elbow ligament injuries.

"We're trying to be as cognizant of all the research that has been done," Klentak said. "And in addition we're applying some of our own research and findings to it. We're going to talk to our medical people, our doctors. We're applying some objective data to it. And ultimately we're going to make the best collective decisions that we can to make sure these guys stay healthy. It's not as simple as looking at an innings total or looking at it the raw number of pitches. There is a lot more that goes into it."

Young pitchers like Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff seem better suited to finish the 2016 season in the Phillies' rotation. Nola, who got shut down in the final week of 2015 because of the Phillies' concern about his workload, threw a combined 187 innings last season. Eickhoff threw 184.

Velasquez's 16th K ends the game

But Velasquez had Tommy John surgery in Sept. 2010, and again he has never pitched more than 124 2/3 innings in a season. Sources also told in December that the Phillies had some concerns about Velasquez's health, which is why the trade that sent Ken Giles to Houston got delayed a couple of days and ultimately changed to include pitching prospect Mark Appel.

"Vince pitched a full healthy season a year ago," Klentak said. "He's been a horse for us so far this year. At this stage, there's no story there."

The Phillies hope they never have a story there. They hope to improve their chances by closely watching how much Velasquez works.

"We're going to do everything we can to make sure that we're keeping the pitchers -- and all of our players -- as healthy as we can," Klentak said.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for 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.