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Vincent Velasquez was the headlining piece for the Phillies in the Ken Giles trade. Mark Appel was the bigger name, sure, but he was (and is) more of a change-of-scenery kind of prospect at the moment, a former first-overall pick the Astros felt they were better off moving and the Phillies were happy to take a chance on in their rebuilding situation. Velasquez was the centerpiece, but even with that designation, he's performing in a way that is surprising just about everyone.
Immediately after the trade, there was discussion of how Velasquez would begin his career as a starter, but might eventually become the replacement for Giles, the Phillies' closer. The stuff was there, the velocity was there -- all the kinds of things you'd love to see out of a shutdown closer. A funny thing has happened in his early run in the rotation for Philadelphia, though: Velasquez has been dominant in the role, and might be a far more important piece going forward than a potential shutdown closer.
Eight starts into the year, Velasquez is striking out 11 batters per nine while averaging six innings per start. He's kept the ball in the park and has limited walks enough that his strikeout-to-walk ratio sits at four. To this point, in a rotation that also has Aaron Nola, it's been the 24-year-old Velasquez posting the best numbers for the Phils. If Velasquez and Nola continue to thrive and the Phillies don't need to go out and find an expensive number two starter, this whole rebuilding thing is going to be sorted out in a relative hurry given the rest of the talented youth already on board.
- Bryce Harper either cheated at "Catchphrase" or he's just terrible at it. He had to be terrible at something eventually, right?
- The Braves fired manager Fredi Gonzalez on Tuesday in a move that surprised no one with anything but maybe the timing.
- Firing Gonzalez was a move that was long overdue. He wasn't canned because of how the rebuilding Braves were playing: this is the manager who wasted the team's prime years, and the change in expectations a rebuild brings didn't seem to be his thing, either.
- How Gonzalez found out he was fired was unfortunate, though: he was accidentally sent a travel itinerary with a flight home before he was told why he'd need one.
- The 500 home run club might not feel special given how often members have joined in the last couple of decades, but after Miguel Cabrera, we might not see anyone else join for a long time.
- Baseball America's Ben Badler is here to remind you that package deals are common with international prospects, and MLB has approved them in the past without incident.
- The Pirates announced a $31 million extension for catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has one of the strangest career arcs in recent memory.
- MLB handed out a whole bunch of suspensions for Sunday's brawl, with Rougned Odor's eight games the lengthiest.
- Stacey May Fowles writes that baseball's code of retribution is shameful, and has no place in the game.
- The Red Sox are doing well in 2016, but they have to hope their starting pitching sorts itself out so they can do better than that: there aren't many trade options available for in-season upgrades.
- Tim Lincecum is with the Angels now, and Giants fans are going to miss him.