DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Vince Velasquez understands that things are different this spring.
It is perhaps the first time since Velasquez joined the Phillies in December 2015 that he truly needs to earn a job in the rotation. Sure, there were springs when he competed for one, but he also held favored status in former general manager Matt Klentak’s front office. But after Dave Dombrowski joined the organization in December, the new president of baseball operations signed left-hander Matt Moore -- who allowed one hit in two innings in Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Blue Jays at TD Ballpark and has allowed two hits in four scoreless innings this spring -- and right-hander Chase Anderson to one-year contracts. Moore and Anderson are considered favorites for the final two spots in the rotation. Velasquez and Spencer Howard are trying to edge them out.
“The opportunity for me is coming short,” Velasquez said. “I know that I have to raise a lot of eyebrows and try to earn your guys’ trust back to earn the starting role, especially with the acquisitions you guys got. But at the same time, I’m being open-minded. I’m trying to control the things I can control. I can’t make any more excuses for myself. I’ve had a lot of opportunities. Unfortunately, things haven’t really fallen into my favor.”
Velasquez allowed one hit, two runs (one earned) and two walks in 1 2/3 innings against the Blue Jays. He struck out three and threw 39 pitches (19 strikes). He struck out three in two perfect innings in his spring debut Thursday against the Yankees.
“He had a really tough job controlling his fastball,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “His location the other day was fantastic.”
Velasquez went 1-1 with a 5.56 ERA in nine appearances (seven starts) last season. The Phils bumped him from the rotation in August to give Howard an opportunity, though Velasquez made four starts in September because of injuries and doubleheaders.
He changed agents in the offseason, leaving Scott Boras for CAA.
“It’s just hitting the reset button,” Velasquez said. “Starting over. Unfortunately, the past five years we’ve had different pitching coaches. It’s so hard to lean on somebody in the offseason. I’m not trying to make excuses. I want to be coached and learn, so I can be a better player, but who was I supposed to lean on?”
There had been talk that Philadelphia might non-tender Velasquez in December, making him a free agent. But the Phillies lacked starting pitching depth, so they ultimately made him an offer. (He will make $4 million this season.) Since then, there has been talk that Velasquez could be traded before Opening Day if the club needs to clear room on the 40-man roster for non-roster players like Odúbel Herrera, Brandon Kintzler and/or Tony Watson.
“I’m aware of the situation,” Velasquez said. “I’m aware of what’s at stake. I know that Chase and Moore are doing a great job, being the veterans that they are. Howard is probably up there with them in the fight. I know it obviously falls onto performance.”
Velasquez believes he can make his case before the end of the month.
Moniak is ‘part’ of center-field mix
Mickey Moniak hit a hard triple to center field in the eighth inning against the Blue Jays. He is 5-for-9 with a double, a triple, two home runs and a 2.111 OPS in eight games this spring. He is earning a closer look for a job in center field.
“I’ve said all along, he’s part of this,” Girardi said.
Moniak probably remains a dark-horse candidate, because he will not make the team as a fourth or fifth outfielder.
“If he comes up, he has to play,” Girardi said. “But he’s still part of it.”
Meanwhile, Herrera went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. It was his first game without a hit, but Girardi liked his at-bats. Herrera also played well in right field. He is 4-for-12 with one home run and a .917 OPS in four games. Scott Kingery went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. He is 2-for-14 with one home run, one walk, seven strikeouts and a .557 OPS in five games.
Hoskins clears another hurdle
Rhys Hoskins played first base for the first time in a Grapefruit League game this spring. He tested himself on a couple plays, stretching his surgically repaired left elbow to catch the ball.
“It’s all systems go,” Hoskins said. “Obviously, I’ll see how I feel tomorrow, but I feel great right now. I don’t see any reason why I won’t [tomorrow].”
Hoskins said he has felt nothing in the elbow since camp opened last month.
• Connor Brogdon, Archie Bradley and José Alvarado each pitched a scoreless inning.
• Infielder Nick Maton doubled to score Moniak in the eighth.
• Left-hander Ranger Suárez tweaked a quadriceps, which put him further behind schedule. He arrived to camp late because of visa issues.