Baseball is nuanced by context, and purists will appreciate this situation. Vincent Velazquez is a young pitcher the Phillies acquired in a trade this winter from the Houston Astros, part of an exchange for Ken Giles who was going to be their heir apparent to closer Jonathan Papelbon. Only in spring training, where the Phillies are deciding who gets the “number 5 in rotation designation” would something happen like this.
On the mound for the Detroit Tigers is their ace, Justin Verlander. The Phillies are using the day to air out and weed out bullpen arms, so Verlander will be opposed by nine relievers slotted for one inning apiece. Justin Upton has hit his first homer of the spring to put the Tigers up 1-0 and in the bottom of the third with a runner on first and no outs, Manager Mackanin calls on Vince Velasquez to help the Phils play small ball. It’s not that Vince is the best candidate to move the runner over; it’s just that when Larry “I can’t sit still” Bowa saunters over to the dugout to give Vince the double fist pump sign to grab a bat, the Phils’ brain trust has decided that it’s a good time to see how one of their pitchers can handle the bat in a real game situation.
As Vince was taking his swings in the on-deck circle I thought to myself: “This kid looks like he knows how to swing the bat”. Now, standing in the box with the runner taking his lead off first with ex-Phil JMJ holding the bag, Vince is looking very comfortable at the plate.
Vince shows very good form as he squares to bunt, but Verlander is not really giving him anything to work with. V.V. not only has good form at the plate, but a good eye (perhaps even two good eyes) as he works the count to 3 balls and 2 strikes.
With the count full, Vince might square up again and try another bunt but that’s usually reserved for pitchers who are lucky to get their bat on the ball. Not Vince, who’s bat it could turn out might just tip the balance in his favor in coming North with the club this Thursday. V.V. stands up tall and rips a base hit with a gorgeous swing, another of the sweet moments this spring.