Vince Velasquez, whose six-year tenure with the Phillies ended when he was designated for assignment and subsequently released last week, didn’t take long to resurface, joining the Padres Wednesday on a minor-league deal. Velasquez will reportedly make his Padres debut Friday night in St. Louis.
Acquired from the Astros in a blockbuster trade sending closer Ken Giles to Houston (where he would ultimately win a World Series in 2017), Velasquez never quite panned out with the Phils, compiling a frustrating 4.93 ERA over 133 outings including 116 starts for Philadelphia. Ironically, his best performance during that span came against the Padres in 2016, notching a career-high 16 strikeouts (one shy of the franchise mark set by Art Mahaffey in 1961) in a three-hit shutout.
Velasquez’s 2021 debut against the Mets perfectly encapsulates his time in Philadelphia. Pitching in relief of starter Chase Anderson, Velasquez struck out the side to begin the night, which he promptly followed up by walking four of the next five hitters he faced. Velasquez was once among the game’s hardest throwers, though, as injuries and age have taken their toll, the right-hander’s velocity has dipped (career-low 93.1 mph on his four-seamer this year), forcing him to expand his repertoire by incorporating more off-speed pitches.
Velasquez hasn’t pitched at the big-league level in over a month, missing all of August with a blister on his right middle finger. However, entering a hugely important series against the Cardinals (who the Friars trail by one game for the National League’s final Wild Card berth), Velasquez won’t have much time to get his bearings. He’ll have an extremely short leash Friday with manager Jayce Tingler likely to pull him at the slightest sign of trouble.
The Padres’ rotation has been gutted by injuries to Chris Paddack (elbow inflammation), Dinelson Lamet (limited to relief duty since his return earlier this month) and former Cy Young winner Blake Snell, whose dominant second half (3.24 ERA since the All-Star break) has been derailed by what doctors are calling a “left adductor strain.” With the division well out of reach, the best San Diego can hope for is the Wild Card, which would pit them against one of Los Angeles or San Francisco in a winner-take-all play-in game.