“You can expect a young right-hander to start tomorrow…Whose initials are S.H.” Phillies’ manager Joe Girardi could not make any official announcement during a Zoom press conference on Saturday, but he did make one thing clear: Spencer Howard will make his Major League Baseball debut on Sunday.
Following Saturday night’s 5-0 victory, the Phillies continue their series against the Braves with a seven-inning double-header on Sunday. Vince Velasquez will start one game while Howard will be called up to make the other start.
Howard, drafted in the second round of the 2017 MLB Draft out of Cal Poly, is the 36th-best prospect in baseball according to MLB.com. In three years in the minors, Howard has posted a 3.28 ERA in 211.1 innings pitched, racking up 281 strikeouts.
The 24-year old right-hander has the makings of a potential ace, but the future remains in his hands to shape. His regiment includes a fastball, slider, change-up, and curveball. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and he possesses a deceptive wind-up.
In mid-July, as the Phillies were in full Summer Camp mode, Bryce Harper was asked about Howard while streaming Fortnite on Twitch. “If Spencer Howard isn’t starting in our rotation by Game 6 in New York against the Yankees, there’s a problem. That’s all I’m saying,” Harper said.
One month and a week-long shutdown later, and the Phillies stand 4-4 through eight games. While Howard did not appear in Game 6, Game 10 isn’t too late either. Especially given the Phillies’ schedule for the remainder of the season. The Phillies will play fourteen double-header games this season. Combine that with only four scheduled days off remaining and 52 games to go, the Phillies will need all of the pitching they can get.
Nola and Wheeler have excelled in their starts this season as the Phillies’ top two starters. Arrieta, after his six-inning, three-hit shutout against the Braves, has proven he still has gas in the tank. Eflin allowed two unearned runs in four innings in his first start against the Yankees. Velasquez was lit up against Miami on July 26. While Howard may be looking to replace Vinny Velo in the five-man rotation, the fact of the matter is that the Phillies will need six starters to get through this regular season. And let’s not even get started on the bullpen.
While our simulation of the 2020 season had Howard pitching an incredible 1.10 ERA, fans need to remember that Howard is a rookie pitcher. He could easily come out and be the ace that everyone expects him to become, or he could get blown out against the Braves tomorrow. The Phillies believe he is ready to produce, but there will no doubt be an adjustment to the Major Leagues. Perhaps no fans and a seven-inning game right off the bat will help. Regardless, Howard already has at least one friend in the dugout in Harper. And if Harper is excited for him, it won’t take long for Philadelphia to fall in love him too.
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