Last season back on April 14, Velasquez went for a complete game and sent down 16 San Diego Padres, while giving up just three hits and no walks. After that game, Velasquez was chasing something the entire season.
“When you have a performance like that, you want to repeat it as much as you can, you want do it every outing,” Velasquez told the AP. “It was one of the best experiences in my life. It was remarkable. It was a big eye opener.
“After I had that experience, I thought it was going to be easy, but that’s what happens when you take things for granted and you try to repeat it. Things happen and you have to move on.”
The numbers for the rest of Velasquez’s season just never matched up to that day back in April. The 24-year-old didn’t go more than seven innings the rest of the season, and reached double-digit strikeouts just two more times.
The Philles acquired Velasquez from the Houston Astros in the Ken Giles deal back in 2015. The young pitcher battled in spring training last season for the fifth spot in the Phillies rotation, where he made an impact on the staff.
Headed into the All-Star break Velasquez boasted a 8-2 record, but finished the season at 8-6. Velasquez finished the year with a 4.12 E.R.A. and tallied 152 strikeouts in his 24 starts.
Hitters saw a healthy dose of the fastball from Velasquez last season, who threw the pitch just over 64 percent of the time. That fastball topped out at 97.8 mph and generated a 11.4 percent whiff rate against opposing hitters last season.
An aspect the young Phillies pitcher says he wants to work on is his secondary pitches, namely his curveball.
“The curveball could be a huge factor if I could locate it and use it whenever I want,” Velasquez said. “If I can get strikes with my curveball, I won’t have to worry about throwing a lot of extra pitches and I’ll be able to get guys out earlier.”
Velasquez threw his curveball 13.4 percent of the time last season, down from his total in 2015. According to FanGraphs Sabermetrics hitters were able to hit 38.5 percent HR/FB off of the pitch also. (Home Run to Fly Ball rate is the ratio of how many home runs are hit against a pitcher for every fly ball they allow.)
His fastball continues to be the focus of his pitching arsenal, which can help mix in his off-speed and breaking pitches. The changeup shows promise as well if Velasquez can mange the location.
So far this spring training, Velasquez has posted a 1-1 record and a 3.07 E.R.A in 14.2 innings. On Wednesday, the Yankees got to the righty, putting up five runs, four of them earned.
Velasquez will likely receive a little more work in spring training with the regular season just around the corner. Jeremy Hellickson will get the ball to start the season for the Phillies, when they take on the Cincinnati Reds on April 3.