Vince Velasquez isn’t pitching well. That’s not an uncommon theme among Phillies starters, who have compiled a collective 4.75 ERA and 1.8 fWAR entering Saturday’s game against the Pirates. Still, things have been especially rough on Velasquez’s end: he’s dragging a 5.98 ERA through 43 2/3 innings and has pitched into the sixth inning during just three of his eight starts.
Things came to a head after the Phillies took a 6-3 loss to the Pirates on Saturday afternoon. Velasquez hurled 5 1/3 innings, allowing five runs, walking two and striking out six of 25 batters while the Phillies struggled to find a foothold against Ivan Nova. The loss didn’t sit well with Velasquez, who told reporters, “I feel clueless right now. I’m just running around like a chicken without a head.”
Corey Seidman of CSN Philly pins the blame on Velasquez’s over-reliance on his fastball and lack of command, which was all too apparent in his latest appearance. The right-hander also lacks potent secondary pitches, so once hitters have his heater figured out, they’re able to unleash bigger hits. Switching to a bullpen role may be the key to developing his pitch repertoire, but the 24-year-old effectively nixed that idea on Saturday. Via MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki:
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.
Something has to change, however, whether it means reducing Velasquez’s workload or figuring out how to get into a better headspace during his starts. “I need to break it down and not put so much pressure on myself,” he added, a sentiment echoed by both club manager Pete Mackanin and catcher Cameron Rupp. “I think that’s one of the hardest things.”
Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.
“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:
Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.
Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.
While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”
Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”
Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.
This one is brutal. Tigers’ right-handed reliever Alex Wilson was diagnosed with a broken leg after taking a blistering 103.8-MPH line drive off of his right leg during Saturday’s game against the Twins. According to the Detroit News’ Chris McCosky, it’s a non-displaced fibular fracture, but will still warrant an extended recovery period and signal the end of Wilson’s season.
Wilson replaced Drew VerHagen to start the eighth inning and worked a full count against Joe Mauer. Mauer roped an 93.3-MPH fastball back up the middle, where it struck the pitcher on his right calf. While Mauer took first base, Wilson got to his feet and tried to toss a warm-up pitch, but was in too much pain to continue and had to be helped off the field.
Even in a season that isn’t going anywhere in particular, this isn’t how you want it to end. The Tigers have yet to announce a recovery timetable for the 30-year-old reliever, but he won’t return to the mound until 2018. He exited Saturday’s outing with a 4.35 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 6.3 SO/9 over 60 innings.
The Tigers currently trail the Twins 10-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning.