DUNEDIN, Fla. — Philadelphia right-hander Vince Velasquez was named the Phillies’ fifth starter on Monday morning, then made his bosses look good in the afternoon by shutting out the Toronto Blue Jays for six innings in a 2-1 loss.
"Velasquez was outstanding today," manager Pete Mackanin said.
Velasquez held Toronto to two hits and three walks. He struck out eight of the 21 batters he faced.
"It wasn’t easy," he said. "I just try to go out and pitch, keep that mentality of staying strong through everything."
The 23-year-old, acquired from Houston in the December trade that sent Ken Giles to the Astros, entered camp in competition with left-handers Adam Morgan and Brett Oberholtzer for a spot in the rotation. Morgan was optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Monday and Oberholtzer is expected to open the season in the Phillies’ bullpen.
The Blue Jays also finalized their rotation before the game, announcing that right-handed swingman Aaron Sanchez will be their fifth starter.
"I’m excited for him," said right-hander Marcus Stroman, Toronto’s opening day starter, who struck out three and walked none in four shutout innings on Monday. "We’ve been talking about this for a long time, being in the rotation together. It’s finally coming to fruition."
Darin Ruf provided the Phillies with their only offence, hitting a solo home run off Randy Choate in the seventh inning. The homer was Ruf’s fourth of the spring.
The Blue Jays erased the deficit and took the lead with one swing. Outfielder Darrell Ceciliani hit a two-run homer off Philadelphia right-hander Dalier Hinojosa with two outs in the eighth inning.
Phillies: Velasquez found out he won the fifth starter’s job first from a mobile notification on his phone and then from a teammate who had been sent to minor league camp. "I was taking a little snooze before the game," he said. "I was unaware at the time. They didn’t tell me anything." Velasquez went on to pitch his best game of the spring. He’ll make his first start of the regular season against the New York Mets at Citi Field during the April 8-10 series.
Blue Jays: Stroman tuned up for his first opening day start — and first opening day, period — by holding the Phillies to three hits while striking out three and not walking a batter in four innings. He’ll start on Sunday in the season opener in Tampa against the Rays. "I’m excited for opening day and everything that goes along with it," he said. "It’s unfortunate I wasn’t able to join my brothers last year for opening day; I’m just looking to soak every single minute of this opening day in."
Phillies: OF/INF Cody Asche (right oblique) will start the season on the disabled list. Asche suffered the injury during a live batting practice session in the first week of full squad workouts and has not played in a Grapefruit League game all spring.
Blue Jays: DH/1B Edwin Encarnacion was tentatively scheduled to participate in a minor league game on Monday. Encarnacion has yet to play in a game this spring after suffering an abscessed tooth earlier in camp and a strained oblique muscle more recently.
Phillies: Philadelphia optioned LHP Morgan and Elvis Araujo, RHP Luis Garcia and OF Darnell Sweeney to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. It re-assigned C Logan Moore, IF Angelus Nina, LHP Bobby LaFromboise and RHPs Reinier Roibal and Chris Leroux to minor league camp.
Blue Jays: Toronto optioned RHP Drew Hutchinson to Triple-A Buffalo. Hutchinson went 13-5 with a 5.57 ERA in 30 games (28 starts) last season with the Blue Jays.
Phillies: Philadelphia will host the New York Yankees in Clearwater on Tuesday. Yankees RHP Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to start opposite Oberholtzer.
Blue Jays: Toronto has split-squad games against Detroit and Tampa on Tuesday. Blue Jays RHP Joe Biagini is scheduled to pitch opposite Tigers LHP Matt Boyd in Lakeland, while Blue Jays RHP Arnold Leon faces Rays RHP Matt Andriese in Dunedin.