Sunday’s probable starter for the Phillies against the Atlanta Braves is currently TBD and as each day passes, it seems more and more likely Spencer Howard will make his first major-league start on that day.
As the 60-game season winds down, it could be tempting to have Howard pitch out of the bullpen, especially considering just how badly the relief corp has been struggling recently.
He spent a significant portion of his first year at Cal Poly as a reliever but hasn’t made a single appearance out of the ‘pen in his professional career. The Phillies, however, are keeping an open mind when it comes to utilizing him in that role.
“We talked about both roles for him,” Joe Girardi said in his pregame media availability before Thursday’s game against the Yankees. “When he gets here and how we do it, we’ll have to manage because he’s not used to throwing out of the bullpen.”
If the Phillies do decide to use him out of the bullpen and he excels in the role, could the team use him on back-to-back days? Girardi doesn’t think that is a good idea. He’ll most likely be used in a long-relief role.
“I wouldn’t look for him to throw back-to-back days if we put him in the bullpen. I would look for him to be more of a multiple-inning guy who could get us big outs,” Girardi said.
When Howard does make it to the big club, don’t expect him to be bouncing between Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley. Once he arrives, he’s expected to stay.
“When he arrives, I don’t think we are going to be sending him back and forth,” Girardi said. “I think we’re going to give him an opportunity to grow into a role. I think that’s kind of our plan. Obviously players have to perform. That’s the bottom line. But I don’t think you’re going to take one outing and say ‘He’s not ready or he is ready.’ Time will tell where he’s at but we have high hopes for him and we really believe in him.”
If the role of the bullpen is indeed in Howard’s future, he’s up for the challenge, even if he needs to make a few adjustments.
“It’s part of the game and I’m willing to do whatever for the team,” Howard said back in summer camp.
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