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August 10, 2017

Phillies Notes: Velasquez leaves with ailing middle finger, Alfaro set to start and more

Since being drafted in the second round by the Houston Astros back in 2010, Vince Velasquez has had seven full minor and major league seasons.

He has managed to pitch more than 100 innings in just three of those seasons, and more than 130 innings just once. In his first season with the Phillies last season, Velasquez threw 131 innings in 24 starts, third most on the team behind Jerad Eickhoff and Jeremy Hellickson.

But on Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park, three weeks and three days since returning from a nearly-two month stay on the disabled list, Velasquez’s 15th start of the 2017 season was over after recording three outs on 32 pitches.

It’s nearly mid-August and a starting pitcher the Phillies hoped to learn a lot more about this summer has thrown all of 72 innings on the season, 40 innings fewer than team leader Aaron Nola, who had his own DL stay earlier in the season.

It’s significant and Velasquez was well aware of it as he tried to explain what led him to leave Thursday’s game after one inning (that included serving up a three-run home run): numbness in his right middle finger.

“It's very frustrating,” Velasquez said. “Again going back to two years ago, numerous years in the minor leagues dealing with tons of injuries. I've been very injury prone so it's tough. You don't want to be labeled as that person. Again, it's just my fault I guess as far as not taking care of myself. But this is one of those things I can't control. It's a simple bruising that's really affected me or that affected me today. We'll see how it goes tomorrow.”

Velasquez said it was “painful” as he spoke to the media close to three hours after he exited the game. He did not ice it. He said there was bruising, but had no idea how it occurred. He declined to show the finger to a reporter when asked.

Asked if he expected to make his next start, Velasquez basically said he was “clueless” about that, too.

“From where we stand right now, I don't know,” he said. “Have faith and be optimistic. We'll shoot for next start. But where we stand right now, I'm clueless just as much they are, just as much as you guys are.”

Pete Mackanin’s postgame comments on the subject were brief. To say the manager’s frustration level on Velasquez’s inconsistency and unreliability has reached a peak would probably be an understatement.

Mark Leiter Jr. took over for Velasquez and saved the bullpen (five innings, one run, seven strikeouts, no walks) but the early damage was done and the Mets ran away with a 10-0 win on the night of Rhys Hoskins’ highly-anticipated big league debut.

Other postgame notes:

 • Mark Leiter became the first Phillies pitcher to strike out seven or more batters in consecutive games during a season, both in relief, since the current mound distance was established in 1893. Houston ace reliever Chris Devenski also accomplished the feat this year, a feat that’s only been accomplished by nine pitchers since 1893. Crazy.

 • Rookie catcher Jorge Alfaro will start behind the plate on Friday, Mackanin said. Alfaro has played in just one game since being recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on August 4.

It’s probably fair to point out that Alfaro was mostly promoted out of necessity (Andrew Knapp will be sidelined until some point in September with a small fracture in his right hand) and not because he had earned a call-up ala Hoskins.

The 24-year-old Alfaro was hitting .241 with a .291 OBP and seven home runs in 84 games at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. And his numbers since June 1 have been downright dreadful: .190/.267/.304 with 10 extra-base hits and 59 strikeouts in 158 at-bats over 43 games.

 • The Phillies played their first home game since beloved catcher Darren Daulton’s passing with his number 10 painted behind home plate at Citizens Bank Park, where it will remain throughout the homestand.

A flag with Daulton’s name and number is also flying on a pole out above Ashburn Alley, with a similar one memorializing Hall of Fame Jim Bunning. The flags will continue flying for the remainder of the season.

Daulton, Bunning, and 1980 World Series-winning manager Dallas Green – all Phillies Wall of Famers who died within the last six months – will be remembered in a video tribute prior to Saturday’s game, when dozens of Wall of Famers will take the field during Alumni Weekend at Citizens Bank Park.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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