Phillies facing a starting rotation logjam with Velasquez returning

Jun 15, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Nick Pivetta (43) pitches during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 15, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Nick Pivetta (43) pitches during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /
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An unexpected dilemma could soon hit the Phillies starting rotation as the arms regain their health

An unexpected phase of dominance from the Phillies young pitching could cause problems in the near future. Phillies general manager Matt Klentak confirmed flamethrower Vince Velasquez is recovering from an elbow strain and could throw a bullpen session in the near future.

Assuming all goes well in the next week, Velasquez could begin his tour of the minor leagues as part of a rehab assignment.

Ultimately destined to reunite with his fellow starters in the rotation, the Phils may have trouble finding a spot for Velasquez.

Replacing the righty have been Nick Pivetta and Ben Lively, both young starters acquired through separate deals involving veterans in the twilight of their career.

Lively has done nothing but impress in his first three career starts, and became the first Phillie to pitch through the seventh in his first triad of starts in nearly five decades.

Pivetta has made seven starts this year filling in for Velasquez, Zach Eflin, and someone named Clay Buchholz. His first handful of starts were fairly rocky, but there was promise shown despite never pitching past the fifth inning.

Thursday night featured a more established Pivetta against a very good Red Sox lineup where he struck out a career-high nine batters in seven innings en route to his second win.

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If Lively and Pivetta both continue to pitch well enough to remain in the starting rotation, where does that leave Velasquez once healthy?

Aaron Nola certainly isn’t leaving anytime soon, and unless an unforeseen transaction involving Jeremy Hellickson occurs, the veteran isn’t going anywhere.

That leaves Jerad Eickhoff, who was the team’s home opening day starter after a workhorse season.

Still searching for his first win of the year, Eickhoff has pitched past the sixth inning just once this year. He’s allowed 10 earned runs and walked eight batters in his three starts this month, and has become the token “no run support” starter in the Phillies rotation.

There have been whispers of sending Eickhoff to Lehigh Valley to regain his command and confidence, though the chances of that are unlikely. That leaves Philadelphia with the coveted conundrum of having too many starters in the organization.

It’s likely either Pivetta or Lively falls off their individual hot streaks, thus justifying a demotion, but if not the team will be forced to move one back to the IronPigs.

Velasquez may not be fully ready to return until the All-Star break approaches, so the team could conceivably stash him in the minors as part of “an extended rehab program.”

Next: Phillies MLB Draft 2017: Recapping Day Two picks

The current crop of starters, with the exception of Hellickson, are the future of the Phillies rotation. Hellickson is just locked in because of the multi-million qualifying offer extended during the offseason. If not, he’d likely be designated for assignment. Until the last week of July or at worst mid-August, Hellickson is here to stay with the hope he rebounds and reclaims trade value.

Until then, the team will hope for continued success from their young crop of starters and renewed long-term health for Velasquez.

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