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May 26, 2019

Phillies notes: The bullpen just got a bit more powerful, and Pivetta is back in the rotation

Gabe Kapler has some new options in relief after calling up J.D. Hammer and moving Vince Velasquez to the 'pen

Phillies MLB
Phillies-JD-Hammer_052619_usat Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher J.D. Hammer and his awesome glasses.

After taking the first two games in Milwaukee, the Phillies clinched a series win over the Brewers, thanks in large part to the return performance they got from Vince Velasquez out of the bullpen on Saturday.

In his first appearance back from the Injured List, the 26-year-old righty threw two scoreless innings in relief, struck out four and picked up the win as the Phillies handled the Brewers, 7-2, at Miller Park. A day later, manager Gabe Kapler confirmed that the switch to the bullpen was not a one-time thing for Velasquez.

Here's more from Matt Breen via philly.com:

“It’s something that people have been talking about for a really long time,” manager Gabe Kapler said before Sunday’s game of Velasquez working as a reliever. “And now it’s time to see what it looks like.” ...

“That was as good as it’s been. As good as Vince has been – period,” Kapler said. “With the fastball usage and the swing and the miss and the discomfort of the swings of the opposition. The second thing we wanted to get a handle on was how he was going to bounce back. He was good. I can do this. That gave us more confidence.”  [philly.com]

The decision to move Velasquez to the bullpen, made easier by his dominance on Saturday, means that it will be Nick Pivetta getting the start on Tuesday against the Cardinals. Last week, after sending down Cole Irvin, Kapler said that he planned on using either Velasquez or Pivetta in Irvin's now-vacant spot in the rotation. Pivetta was sent down earlier in the season after a rough start, but has been impressive enough in six starts for triple-A Lehigh Valley (4-1, 3.41 ERA) that Kapler is confident with him returning to the rotation.

The Phillies also made a roster move on Sunday, sending reliever Pat Neshek, who felt shoulder pain following his appearance on Friday night, to the injured list and calling up hard-throwing prospect JD Hammer. Who, you ask? Here's a little more on a guy who has a perfect name for a reliever, courtesy of NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury...

John Dale Hammer is a colorful lad with long locks of hair and big, black-framed eyeglasses much like Rick (Wild Thing) Vaughn of the movie Major League. His journey to the majors did not include any time in the California Penal League, but he did face the uphill climb that goes with being a senior sign out of Marshall University and a 24th-round draft pick in 2016. Hammer’s signing bonus was just $1,000.

No problem, he’s happy to be here. And no matter how tired he was from a long day of travel, he looked like a big leaguer when he walked through the clubhouse door in a nice blue suit. His wife and dad made the trip in from Colorado for Saturday’s game. His mom couldn’t make the trip because she was attending his sister’s college graduation.

“It’s been a ride,” Hammer said of the journey that he hopes is just beginning. “I’ve worked hard and I’ve had a lot of people support me along the way. Coaches, trainers, everyone — I’ve had a lot of support. I couldn’t do it without them.”  [nbcsports.com]

Hammer, 24, only appeared in 12 games spread across the Phillies low-level affiliates last season, but has been a fast climber in 2019. After starting the season at double-A Reading, Hammer was promoted to Lehigh Valley just last week, and only made one start, striking out three over two perfect innings, before the Phillies had seen enough. 

And, in his first MLB appearance on Sunday, Hammer delivered.

Now, with the additions of Velasquez, who hit 97 on the gun against Milwaukee, and Hammer, who sports a fastball right around the same speed, to the bullpen, Kapler has some different options. Specifically, he's added two more power arms to his arsenal, and it will be interesting to see what roles these two players take on in a bullpen that has, at times, been a real concern for Kapler's team. 


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