Velasquez feels 'clueless' after loss to Bucs

Velasquez feels 'clueless' after loss to Bucs

PITTSBURGH -- Vince Velasquez is lost.

He is baffled that he has not pitched successfully in the big leagues in some time. He is 2-4 with a 5.98 ERA following Saturday's 6-3 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park. He has failed to pitch six innings in five of his eight starts this season and in 16 of his 32 starts since he joined the Phillies last year.

He looks dominant one minute, he gets barreled the next.

"I'm just clueless right now," Velasquez said. "I'm just running around like a chicken without a head."

It is a growing concern because Velasquez has not shown the improvement the Phillies expected to see following an encouraging 2016. Velasquez struggled to pitch deep into games last season, but they figured he would adjust and become more reliable. It has not happened.

"I think he's capable of becoming a starting pitcher," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He needs to get to the point where he can handle that."

But is Velasquez fearful that he could eventually lose his spot in the rotation? Scouts have said for some time that Velasquez's arm could play up big as a late-inning reliever because of an overpowering fastball.

"Is it a fear? No, it's not a fear," Velasquez said. "If it's a way to help the team in the bullpen, then so be it. But do I think about that going out there? No."

Velasquez allowed seven hits, five runs, two walks and one home run in 5 1/3 innings against the Pirates. He struck out six. He threw 33 pitches in the first two innings, striking out three. But after he retired the first two batters he faced in the third, he allowed two hits and a walk as the Pirates tied the game. He needed 29 pitches to escape the third.

"In the game, it's just a lack of commitment, a lack of concentration, just a lack of everything," Velasquez said. "I mean, jeez, even my golf game is lacking everything. I don't know what I've got to do, but I've got to figure something out. Stuff is just not working out. Nothing is going my way."

Velasquez allowed a home run to David Freese in the fourth and three more runs in the sixth.

"I need to break it down and not put so much pressure on myself," he said. "I think that's one of the hardest things. I apply a lot of pressure."

Velasquez entered the game in the top 30 among qualified pitchers in both strikeout and walk rates, striking out or walking batters in 34.3 percent of his plate appearances. More than 34 percent of his pitches have come with three balls or two strikes.

"I'm sure he hears all the talk about how every start he runs out of pitches," Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp said. "There's zero intention of him trying to run out of pitches. He knows that. Yeah, he probably does put a little bit of pressure on himself. Knowing Vince, he's kind of like a perfectionist. He wants things done his way. He goes out and challenges guys, but at the same time, when you put too much pressure on yourself, it ends up hurting you."

"I guess no matter what or how I feel, there's no adjustments being made at all," Velasquez said. "I've just got to talk with Mac [pitching coach Bob McClure] and just pretty much start all over."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.