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Perrotto: Rotation Opportunity Appealing to Vince Velasquez



Pittsburgh Pirates- Vince Velasquez

Vince Velasquez’s career has been notable for its unfulfilled promise.

I remember talking to then-Phillies manager Pete Mackanin during spring training in 2016. Philadelphia had acquired Velasquez from the Houston Astros in an offseason trade.

Mackanin said Velasquez had the potential to be a No. 1 starter. Considering Mackanin is a veteran baseball man who is rarely prone to hyperbole, it seemed like high praise.

All these years later, Velasquez is 30 years old and still trying to find consistent success. He is hoping to achieve it with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Velasquez’s one-year, $3.15-million contract became official Tuesday after the sides agreed to the deal last week in free agency.

His lifetime record is 34-47 over eight seasons with a 4.93 ERA in 183 games (136 starts).

The Pittsburgh Pirates have turned around the careers of left-handers Tyler Anderson and Jose Quintana over the past two seasons. Velasquez is hoping he can also be helped by pitching coach Oscar Marin.

“The main conversation with Oscar was (about) having that transparency and really being very communicative with what we’re trying to develop,” Velasquez said Tuesday. “This organization is all for the players. It kind of sucks when you’re being pulled left and right and told what to do. But we kind of come together and kind of develop an actual game plan of what individual players are trying to accomplish. That’s what’s going to keep the ship rolling.”

Velasquez has shown flashes of brilliance in the major leagues. His career highlight was a 16-strikeout game for the Phillies against the San Diego Padres in 2016.

Occasionally, Velasquez will review the video of that April afternoon in Philadelphia.


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“Oh, I watch it,” Velasquez said with a smile. “I’ve seen it a handful of times, maybe a couple more. I don’t really dwell on the past, but I think that’s something you can really learn from.”

However, Vince Velasquez also realizes that dialing up another game like that is probably unrealistic.

“As much as I’d love to go out and strike out 17 or 18, whatever it may be, that’s just not my goal anymore,” he said. “I think it’s more how can I be an effective pitcher, get outs and hand the ball to the bullpen whenever it’s needed, knowing I did my job?

“At that time, I was a thrower. I was a guy who had high velocity. But you realize you can’t do that effectively from the first inning through the ninth inning. When I was a young guy, I probably could, but now I’m a little bit older and it’s gonna take a little bit, a little bit out of me and the next day, I’ll be sore. I think it’s more (about) controlling the counts, being effective in the strike zone, and utilizing all my pitches.”

In addition to working with Marin, a big reason why signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates was alluring to Velasquez is that he will get a chance to be a starting pitcher in 2023. He began last season in the Chicago White Sox’s rotation but was moved to the bullpen in mid-June.

“He has a starter’s repertoire, and we are looking forward to working with him and watching him start games in black and gold,” general manager Ben Cherington said.

Velasquez figures to slot into the rotation with Roansy Contreras, Mitch Keller, and Johan Oviedo. Rookie Luis Ortiz figures to be a candidate for the fifth spot with Bryse Wilson and Zach Thompson.

“I’ve always wanted to start,” Velasquez said. “I realized coming into this organization that I do have that opportunity. I’m here to make a difference for myself, but also for the team. There’s really no independency here, it’s not just me. I’m here have an impact on everybody, to show that there is opportunity, there is possibility, there is light at the end of the tunnel. And that’s my whole mentality, knowing that this was an opportunity I needed to take.”


John Perrotto is a columnist for Pittsburgh Baseball Now and has covered the Pittsburgh Pirates and MLB since 1988.

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