Velasquez vows to 'stay positive' amid struggles

Velasquez vows to 'stay positive' amid struggles

PHILADELPHIA -- Vince Velasquez could allow these past few weeks to torment him, if he desired.

But Velasquez sees no point in that, even though his struggles continued in Sunday afternoon's 9-0 loss to the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. He allowed seven hits, five runs, two walks, two home runs and struck out seven in six innings. Velasquez has a 10.47 ERA in his last three starts and a 7.29 ERA in his last six.

Velasquez also has allowed eight home runs in his last 15 1/3 innings after he allowed just 11 in his first 103 2/3 innings.

"You've got to stay positive," Velasquez said. "If you let yourself [get] down, you're not going to get anywhere. The way I see it is everyone has a turning point. I'm not figuring it out. I haven't found that turning point yet. I have a couple days off [to] regather, and I'll bounce back against New York. That's the way I see it, just try to be optimistic and keep working."

Velasquez has thrown 119 innings, which is just 5 2/3 innings short of his career high in the Minor Leagues. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin does not believe Velasquez is running on fumes, although the Phillies are closely monitoring Velasquez's workload. Instead, he sees a young pitcher struggling as he learns on the job.

Mackanin on Velasquez's outing

"I told him to enjoy learning about climbing the ladder, enjoy the fight, the struggle to get to where you want to be," Mackanin said. "Because he's going to be real good at one point. He's got to keep battling and working at it."

Plenty of successful starting pitchers struggled early in their careers. Roy Halladay is an excellent example of that. He had a 10.64 ERA in 19 appearances (13 starts) with the Blue Jays in 2000, prompting Toronto to send Halladay all the way to Class A Dunedin. Tom Glavine went 7-17 with a 4.56 ERA in his first full season with the Braves in 1988.

This is not to compare Velasquez to Halladay or Glavine, but it should provide a little perspective. Velasquez (8-6, 4.31 ERA) is still very early in his career. He has time.

Velasquez avoided major damage in the first inning when he loaded the bases with none out. Brandon Moss hit a ball to the wall in center field, but Odubel Herrera made a nice leaping catch for a sacrifice fly. No other runs scored in the inning. 

Herrera's leaping catch

Moss hit a solo homer to left-center field in the fourth and Cardinals pitcher Mike Leake hit a two-out single to score two runs in the same frame. Stephen Piscotty hit a solo homer to left in the fifth to make it 5-0. Velasquez struck out the side in the sixth to end his afternoon.

"Why can't I just do what I did in that last inning?" Velasquez said he told Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure.

Velasquez hinted in his last start last week against the Dodgers that he could make three or four more starts. If that is the case, he might have two or three more to right himself and go into the offseason with some positive vibes.

"You just have to put the pieces together, and you have to figure it out," he said. "I've got to figure them out. Yeah, I agree with [Mackanin]. I know I've got to enjoy this adversity here, and I've got to manage to go with the flow and build on it."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for since 2009. 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.