Phillie Phodder: Velasquez pitches Monday, catching dilemma, Herrera to RF?


SAN FRANCISCO — Several pieces of news emerged before the Phillies played the San Francisco Giants on Saturday night. Let’s get to them:

Velasquez to start Monday
Manager Pete Mackanin announced that Vince Velasquez would return to the starting rotation Monday in Arizona. The team will not add the right-hander to the active roster and make a corresponding roster move until then. Sending Adam Morgan to the minors remains a strong possibility. Morgan has a 6.55 ERA in 11 starts. Velasquez, who has recovered from a mild right biceps strain, is sliding into Morgan’s spot in the rotation. Morgan could be available in the bullpen Sunday.

(Update: Morgan is headed to the 'pen. Elvis Araujo was sent to Triple A.)

Ruiz to catch Nola
Cameron Rupp has been behind the plate for every inning that Aaron Nola has thrown in the major leagues.

That will change Sunday when Carlos Ruiz is the catcher for Nola’s 29th big-league start.

“Maybe he’ll snap him out of his little funk,” Mackanin said.

Nola, who turned 23 earlier this month, has hit the first rough patch of his big-league career. He is 0-3 with a 15.83 ERA in his last three starts. He has been knocked out early in all three games, pitching just a total of 9 2/3 innings. In that span, he has allowed 22 hits and 17 earned runs. He has walked seven.

These are very uncharacteristic numbers for Nola, who arrived in the majors 11 months ago and had a 3.12 ERA in his first 25 starts.

Mackanin is hoping the 37-year-old Ruiz can impact Nola the way he’s impacted Jerad Eickhoff in recent starts.

Rupp was behind the plate for 10 of Eickhoff’s first 11 starts this season and the right-hander had a 3.88 ERA in those games.

Ruiz has caught Eickhoff’s last four starts. The pitcher has an ERA of 1.82 in those starts. Overall in five starts with Ruiz behind the plate this season, Eickhoff has a 2.35 ERA. And last year, Ruiz caught two of Eickhoff’s starts that resulted in 14 scoreless innings.

“I think Chooch probably is willing to call more breaking pitches than Rupp for whatever reason,” Mackanin said after Eickhoff’s last start Thursday.

Before Saturday’s game, Mackanin was asked if he believed Ruiz was a better game-caller than Rupp.

“Let’s put it this way, with the years of experience he’s had I’d like to think, yeah, I would say that,” he said. “Rupp’s in a learning process. I’m not going to say he calls a better game than Chooch because Chooch has had a lot of success with a lot of different types of pitchers.”

Mackanin doesn’t want to get into a situation where he has a catching controversy, but …

“That’s the hard part of about this job,” he said. “You have to give up something to get something. Cam offers more offense. However is it more important to guide the young pitcher and bring him along with some veteran experience? Winning games is important, too, for the health of the players, the coaches and the manager, too. We’ve won five games this month.

“It’s a dilemma. Do I play the guys that offer more offense and suffer defensively or …”

Rupp, 27, has had a strong season at the plate. His .773 OPS ranks fifth among big-league catchers. Ruiz has a .644 OPS.

But Mackanin said catching was a defensive position – handling pitchers, blocking balls, throwing out runners and calling a game. He hinted at some frustration with the latter area.

“They have meetings, they have charts (about how to pitch hitters),” Mackanin said. “Sometimes it surprises you. You go over it in a meeting and there’s input back and forth and you get in a game and it’s, “What are you doing? Pitch according to the book we have here.’ Sometimes guys don’t do that.”

Focus on fundementals
The Phillies have made errors, failed to back up bases and had runners picked off bases in recent games. So it was no wonder that they have been on the field more than four hours before game time the last two days working on the small things — everything from holding runners to backing up bases to getting jumps on the bases.

“A reminder that defense is important,” Mackanin said. “We’ve been sloppy in a lot of areas. We’ve failed to back up third two or three times.”

Center fielder Odubel Herrera, who was not in the lineup Saturday night, has been particularly sloppy. He made just five errors in 136 games in center last season. He has seven in 73 games this season. On this trip, he has made two sloppy plays that weren’t ruled errors. Mackanin mentioned both after games.

Interestingly, Herrera took balls in right field off the bat of outfield instructor Juan Samuel before Saturday night’s game. Peter Bourjos, who started in center, could end up getting more time there if Herrera doesn’t improve. Aaron Altherr can also play there. He is expected to return from the disabled list sometime in the second half. Prospect Roman Quinn projects as a difference-making center fielder, but he has had trouble putting together a healthy season and is currently on the DL at Double A Reading.

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