DUNEDIN, Fla. – Vince Velasquez logged his first two innings of spring training Wednesday afternoon and Scott Kingery homered for the second time in three days as the Phillies fell to Toronto, 7-1, in Grapefruit League action.
Vince Velasquez – 1 2/3 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
Velasquez looked strong in his first inning as he retired each of three batters he faced, getting a pair of strikeouts on his 95-mph fastball. His command was spotty in the second, and Toronto hit him hard. The pitcher flashed enough to understand why the Phillies have raved during camp about his bullpen sessions. His off-speed pitches looked improved from last season. Velasquez was happy with his spring debut.
“All my bullpens lately, I’ve never had this command; I’ve never felt this comfortable,” Velasquez said. “It’s just a matter of finding that technique, that rhythm, find that loading zone on your back leg. Once you feel like you’re planted with that back leg, everything falls into place. Look at [the Dodgers’ Clayton] Kershaw when he lifts his high leg and the next thing you know he goes into slot — I mean, it’s amazing how consistent he is. It’s just a matter of finding little things like that.”
Mark Leiter struck out five in two innings and could be earning himself a more vital role in the bullpen than the long relief role he assumed last season. He used a terrific splitter Wednesday and threw an elevated fastball. Manager Gabe Kapler said Leiter reminds him of an “in-his-prime Joel Peralta.”
Jake Thompson looks to be transitioning into a relief role, as he pitched just an inning for the second time this spring. He’s not in the race to be the fifth starter, and a move to the bullpen could suit him. Kapler said the team is just trying to get Thompson innings and to not pay much attention to his usage this spring.
Kingery homered in the third inning for the team’s lone run. He altered his swing earlier this week and has homered twice since. Kingery turned heads last spring before having a great year at double A and triple A. He said he understands he will start the season in triple A because of the ability for the Phillies to gain another year of club control if they keep him in the minors for the beginning of the season.