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Inbox: How did Phils handle closer situation?

Beat reporter Todd Zolecki answers fans' questions
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

If Jeanmar Gomez had such a short leash, why did the Phillies start the season with him as the closer in the first place?
-- Kevin C., Philadelphia

I asked myself a similar question in January, when manager Pete Mackanin said Gomez would open the season as the closer. After all, the Phillies said for much of the offseason that they would have an open competition for the job in Spring Training. Why the reversal? Gomez held the job for nearly a season, so it is not like the Phils owed him anything. He also struggled in the final six weeks of the 2016 season, losing the job in the final week. It is clear Hector Neris, Joaquin Benoit and Edubray Ramos have better stuff.

If Jeanmar Gomez had such a short leash, why did the Phillies start the season with him as the closer in the first place?
-- Kevin C., Philadelphia

I asked myself a similar question in January, when manager Pete Mackanin said Gomez would open the season as the closer. After all, the Phillies said for much of the offseason that they would have an open competition for the job in Spring Training. Why the reversal? Gomez held the job for nearly a season, so it is not like the Phils owed him anything. He also struggled in the final six weeks of the 2016 season, losing the job in the final week. It is clear Hector Neris, Joaquin Benoit and Edubray Ramos have better stuff.

But being a manager is more than just filling out a lineup card and making in-game decisions. A big part of the job is handling personalities and situations. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to give Gomez one more chance to prove himself.

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In the event Gomez had pitched well, great. In the event he struggled, Mackanin could say, "Hey, I gave you a shot." And that is exactly what happened.

Do you think Vince Velasquez could move to the bullpen? I think it would be a treat to watch him close.
-- Matthew B., Philadelphia

This question has been coming up a lot lately, even before Velasquez struggled in Wednesday night's loss to the Mets. He gets a lot of swings and misses, which would translate well into the ninth inning. Batters have swung and missed 26 of Velasquez's 194 pitches (13.4 percent) this season, which is 18th out of 103 pitchers that have thrown more than 150 pitches, according to Statcast™. He ranked 15th out of 119 pitchers that threw 2,000 or more pitches in 2016.

Video: WSH@PHI: Velasquez's 10 strikeouts in 10 seconds

But it's way too early to think about Velasquez racking up saves. He needs more time in the rotation. Velasquez needs a chance to make adjustments and prove he can pitch more efficiently. So leave him alone and see what he can do over the course of his second full season in the big leagues. If the time comes and Velasquez continues to throw 100 pitches through four or five innings, then maybe the Phillies will make a change. But not now -- he is too talented to give up on him so early a starter.

Do you see any improvement from the offense so far?
-- James T., West Chester, Pa.

Nine games is a very small sample size, but it is interesting to see the Phillies rank second in baseball in pitches per plate appearance (4.10). They ranked 27th (3.81) in 2016. Phils hitting coach Matt Stairs talked a lot in Spring Training about not giving away at-bats, and early in the season, Philadelphia's batters seem to have gotten the message. The Phillies are sixth in baseball, averaging 5.11 runs per game. Remove the 17-3 blowout victory against the Nationals on Saturday, and they are averaging a less impressive 3.62, but, hey, those runs count. Overall, the Phils seem to be having better at-bats, at least compared to what we saw in the 2016 season. It is an encouraging start.

Video: WSH@PHI: Kendrick keys Phillies' huge 1st inning

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast.

Philadelphia Phillies, Jeanmar Gomez, Vince Velasquez