Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Velasquez and Morgan battle for spot in Phillies rotation


By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
March 16, 2016, 8:00 PM EST.
@PGordonPBR

CLEARWATER, Fla. - There's still a little more than two weeks before the Phillies break camp and open the regular season, yet the organization remains mum on the status of their starting rotation.

Four of the spots appear to be locked up with Aaron Nola, Jeremy Hellickson, Charlie Morton and Jerad Eickhof, but the actual order and the final rotation spot remain a question mark.

Entering camp, Vince Velasquez appeared to be a favorite to land a spot in the rotation, but Adam Morgan and Brett Oberholtzer are drawing attention with strong starts to the spring.

Morgan has surrendered just two runs over nine innings this spring. His 0.67 WHIP is a team best among starters. Oberholtzer has tossed eight scoreless innings and he's surrendered just one walk while collecting four strikeouts.

Compared to Morgan and Oberholtzer, Velasquez has the better stuff. He goes after hitters and has a fastball that routinely sits in the mid-90s. He has nine strikeouts in nine innings this spring, though he has surrendered four runs on 10 hits.

Oberholtzer has experience coming out of the bullpen, so he may end up there to open the season, meaning Morgan and Velasquez are likely battling for a final rotation spot.

Velasquez is scheduled to pitch on Thursday against Tampa Bay while Morgan is set to pitch on Friday against Pittsburgh. Both guys will be expected to go at least four innings, so we'll see what can separate the two for a slot in the rotation.

Depending on how the Phillies shuffle their staff, a fifth starter may not be needed until March 13th at home against San Diego.

On the field
The Phillies are halfway through the Grapefruit League schedule and are carrying an 11-4-2 record.

"I know they're Spring Training games," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Tuesday morning at Bright House Field, "but I've been very encouraged by the way Pete [Mackanin] has guys playing. The energy, the effort and the outcomes. We've won a lot of games this spring, and that's been a really positive thing for us."

The Rays visit on Thursday with Velasquez set to start. 

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