More questions than answers on Spencer Howard after weekend start against the Nationals
Spencer Howard was on the mound Saturday for the Philadelphia Phillies against the Washington Nationals. The Phillies won the game 5-2 and beat the Nationals again yesterday 12-6 in a bizarre four and a half hour game to win the series 2-1. They have a day off today before a three game series begins tomorrow against the Atlanta Braves.
Howard was making his third start this season, and pitched 2.1 innings, allowing one hit, one unearned run, and two walks while striking out two. Again, Howard struggled to keep his velocity deep into the ball game. For the second time in three starts, we watched as Howard’s fastball hit 97mph in the first inning and then drop to as low as 91mph in his last inning. To say the least, it has been a very frustrating experience for Phillies fans to watch their No. 1 Prospect continue to struggle to make it into the middle of a ball game.
Howard doesn’t turn 25 years old until the end of July. He has battled injuries throughout his young career and is far from a finished product. The Phillies have always been adamant on the fact that Howard will be a starting pitcher at the major league level, however early signs from him will indicate otherwise.
Should Spencer Howard be in the major leagues or working on his pitching in the minors? Is Howard better off moving to the bullpen rather than being a starter who can only throw three to four innings as a member of the rotation? These are questions that the Phillies need to answer. Right now, it doesn’t look like the Phillies have many options, as they deal with major depth issues in their farm system.
Luckily for Howard, he has Ranger Suarez piggybacking his starts this season. Suarez, who has appeared in 10 games for the Phillies this season, has pitched 17.1 innings and still holds a squeaky clean 0.00 ERA. On Saturday, Ranger Suarez was fantastic yet gain in relief of Howard, pitching 3.0 innings, allowing zero hits, runs, or walks, while striking out three.
Howard’s velocity isn’t even the only issue he’s dealing with. He faced 11 batters on Saturday, walked two, hit one, and threw a total of 48 pitches, 26 of which were strikes, while 22 of them were balls. That is far from a good ratio for a starting pitcher and incredibly disappointing from your number one prospect.
In three starts this season, Spencer Howard has walked nine batters in just over nine innings of work. Last year, he allowed 30 hits and 10 walks in just over 24 innings of work and had a 5.92 ERA before ending the season on the injured list with shoulder stiffness.
Joe Girardi stated that Spencer Howard’s job, as of now, is to keep the Phillies in ball games, so the plan to move him out of the starting rotation and into the bullpen or minor leagues doesn’t seem to be on the minds of people inside the Phillies organization.
The Phillies do have some flexibility this month in how they use their starting rotation, where you might not have to rely on the fifth starter often given the amount of days off the team has this month. They have already reworked their rotation so that Zach Eflin, Aaron Nola, and Zack Wheeler would be available to pitch against the Braves.
None of this answers the long term plan for Spencer Howard and the Phillies don’t seem to be in too much of a rush to figure things out.
Mandatory Credit: Getty Images