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Phillies, Blue Jays look to end skids as Velasquez makes spring debut

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Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez pitching at Dunedin Stadium in the spring of 2016. Velasquez stranded 74.4 percent of the runners he allowed on base through 15 appearances in 2017. (Frank Klose/Sports Talk Philly)

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

In a battle between clubs that have won just once through five Grapefruit League contests this spring, the Philadelphia Phillies (1-4) will head slightly north to face right-hander Joe Biagini and the Toronto Blue Jays (1-4) Wednesday afternoon at Dunedin Stadium.

Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez will make his 2018 exhibition debut, his first game action since leaving his August 10 start against the New York Mets early with numbness in his right middle finger.

The Blue Jays' sole victory thus far came against the Phillies last Friday, Feb. 23, in a 2-1 victory, also at their recently-renamed home spring training facility, Dunedin Stadium. Both their runs came in the top of the first against Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta. In their first at-bats in a Toronto uniform, former All-Stars in designated hitter Curtis Granderson and shortstop Aledmys Diaz respectively homered and hit a RBI single. The Phillies' lone run came via a solo shot by non-roster invitee outfielder Danny Ortiz in the eighth inning.

The Phillies have lost three straight games, while the Blue Jays have lost four straight.

Starting Pitching Matchup:

Philadelphia Phillies (1-4) Toronto Blue Jays (1-4)
RHP Vince Velasquez RHP Joe Biagini
(2017: 2-7, 5.13 ERA) (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
Velasquez, 25, will look to rebound from a disappointing 2017 season in which he made only 15 starts due to his finger injury and a right elbow flexor strain suffered in late May. Over his last 10 outings, the right-hander went 0-5 with a 4.93 ERA in just 45 2/3 innings. While speculation arose whether the Phillies should transition Velasquez to the bullpen, it appears the club is giving the Montclair, California native another chance to handle the role as starter.

In an interview with 97.5 The Fanatic's Anthony Gargano on Tuesday, Charlie Manuel, senior advisory to general manager Matt Klentakspoke highly of the three-year veteran:

"[Vince Velasquez] has electric stuff. His fastball has movement ... it kind of jumps at you. He's got a lot of talent, but we keep waiting on him to develop and get consistent. That's exactly what he needs. ... He's been a starter all of his baseball career now, and his arm and talent fits being a starter. I think he just has to be more consistent, and sometimes a year makes a big difference."

Velasquez will oppose Biagini, a 27-year-old right-hander who faced the Phillies in their Grapefruit League opener on Friday. Biagini tossed two scoreless innings and received a winning decision, allowing only a single to right fielder Nick Williams, while striking out third baseman Maikel Franco and non-roster invitee shortstop, Pedro Florimon.

Starting Lineups:

Philadelphia Phillies (1-4) Toronto Blue Jays (1-4)
  Position Player Bats   Position Player Bats
1 2B Scott Kingery* R 1 LF Curtis Granderson L
2 1B Carlos Santana S 2 SS Yangervis Solarte S
3 DH Odubel Herrera L 3 DH Russell Martin R
4 CF Aaron Altherr R 4 1B Kendrys Morales S
5 3B Maikel Franco R 5 CF Teoscar Hernandez R
6 C Jorge Alfaro R 6 RF Anthony Alford R
7 RF Dylan Cozens L 7 C Danny Jansen R
8 SS Adam Rosales* R 8 3B Jason Leblebijian* R
9 LF Andrew Pullin* L 9 2B Gift Ngoepe R

* non-roster invitee

Broadcast Information:

  • First pitch: 1:07 p.m.
  • TV: N/A
  • Radio:

Game Notes:

  • The Phillies will give non-roster invitee second baseman Scott Kingery a third look in the last four days. In his last appearance Monday evening against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field, Kingery went 3-3 with a run scored, six total bases, and a clutch, game-tying solo shot on a full count and two outs in the top of the ninth inning. 
  • Carlos Santana will make his third appearance in a Phillies uniform, batting second as the starting first baseman. Santana appears to be playing every other day thus far, having appeared against the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday and the Yankees on Monday. Santana has yet to pick up a hit through four at-bats, but he has walked and produced a RBI via a sacrifice fly to Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks.
  • The Blue Jays' Anthony Alford will bat sixth as the right fielder. Alford leads the club in runs (3), hits (4), triples (1), and RBIs (3), while he is tied for the lead in doubles (1) and home runs (1).
  • The Phillies fell 11-6 to the Detroit Tigers at home on Tuesday. Tommy Joseph got his first look in both corner outfield positions, as manager Gabe Kapler swapped him back-and-forth with non-roster invitee Collin Cowgill based on scouting reports on Tigers batters. At the plate, Joseph went 2-2 with a double, run scored and RBI.
  • The Phillies announced on Tuesday that the late Roy Halladay and World Series-winning team executive Pat Gillick will be inducted onto the team's Wall of Fame on Saturday, August 4, before the team takes on the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. Halladay will join Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton and Charlie Manuel as the only Phillies to be inducted without a fan vote.

“Braden, Ryan and I are so honored to have Roy remembered in this way,” said Halladay's wife, Brandy. “He will be in great company with other Phillies legends who are on the Wall of Fame. The decision made by the Phillies to induct Roy without a fan vote makes it even more meaningful. I look forward to fans and the community coming out to celebrate this special occasion with us.”

What's Next:

  • Thursday, March 1, 2018: vs. New York Yankees, 1:05 p.m.
    • Spectrum Field, Clearwater, Fla.
    • LHP CC Sabathia (2017: 14-5, 3.69 ERA) vs. RHP Nick Pivetta (0-1, 9.00 ERA)
    • TV: NBCSP+, MLBN; Radio: N/A


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