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Vince Velasquez: “I feel clueless right now.”

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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.”

Zack Wheeler will miss at least two starts when his wife gives birth

Zack Wheeler miss starts
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Per The Athletic’s Matt Gelb, Phillies starter Zack Wheeler will miss at least two starts when his wife goes into labor and gives birth to their first child, expected to be later this month. Wheeler, in fact, is not sure if he will return to play at all once their child is born.

Wheeler said, “We just have to see how things are here at the field and at the stadium. I’m happy with what I see so far. But things could change, especially once our baby’s born. I always think about what’s going on around me. Is it safe? Is it OK? Literally every single day. I have to just ask myself that. I’m going to continue to keep asking myself that every day.”

Wheeler, 30, inked a five-year, $118 million contract with the Phillies in December. He is slated for the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind Aaron Nola. Last season, with the Mets, Wheeler posted a 3.96 ERA with 195 strikeouts and 50 walks over 195 1/3 innings.

The No. 5 spot in the Phillies’ rotation is currently up for grabs between Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, Ranger Suárez, and prospect Spencer Howard. One of the remaining three could fill in for Wheeler when he needs time off, temporarily or otherwise.