Vince Velasquez searched this offseason for a way to keep himself calm on the mound, something that could channel his competitiveness and maximize the potential of his right arm.
Some pitchers, Velasquez said, find a rhythm by chewing gum or stepping off the mound or taking deep breaths. It is the little things, he said, that "get you back in sync." This month, Velasquez finally found his: He turned to music on the mound.
"I just started singing songs and finding a rhythm and getting more relaxed," Velasquez said. "Anything that soothes me and relaxes me, I'm all for it. I don't have a personal preference or specific genre, it's all a variety of songs."
Velasquez enters Tuesday night with a 2.08 ERA in his last three starts with 21 strikeouts and seven walks over 17 1/3 innings. He looks to have turned a corner.
The Phillies pushed him early in the season to turn up the volume and attack. Stay on the gas pedal, manager Gabe Kapler told him. But Velasquez had a 5.70 ERA through his first four starts. Perhaps that was not the best mind-set to have. The Phillies told him to then find a calm, relaxed demeanor. Velasquez thought that would be a better attitude and he opened himself up to music.
"You have certain mentalities of getting back into the zone and find certain ways to get locked back in," Velasquez said.
He was standing near the mound Thursday night in St. Louis when Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler walked to the plate to a song by North Philly rapper Meek Mill. Velasquez found the song he needed. He rhymed "Dreams and Nightmares" in his head, calmed his nerves, and settled in for the at-bat. With a new tune, Velasquez seems like a different pitcher.
"I was up there nodding my head and finding my rhythm," Velasquez said. "You have to find ways to comfort yourself out there. Aside from having an actual job and pitching, you have to have fun."
J.P. Crawford rehabbed Monday in Clearwater, Fla. at extended spring training. …Pat Neshek threw 30 pitches off flat ground for the first time since suffering a forearm injury. …Velasquez will face Brandon McCarthy on Tuesday night.