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Spencer Howard could be used out of the bullpen and more spring training notes

There’s no shying away from how disappointing Spencer Howard was in 2020. In 24 1/3 innings, Howard had a 5.92 ERA in six starts. He dealt with right shoulder stiffness, his second arm injury in as many years. His velocity fell considerably as the game moved along.

Spencer Howard is entering his second season with the Phillies. (Cheryl Pursell)

His shoulder injury in 2019 was much more “acute” than what he experienced in 2020, according to Howard.

“Last year, I would feel good and then all of a sudden the [velocity] would go down during games and it would take me a little bit longer to get warmed up,” Howard said on Wednesday. “So it wasn’t as sharp of a pain, like pinchy in my shoulder, it was just more of like ‘I don’t have that much there anymore,’ which is more concerning to me honestly because I was like ‘Well, am I just a bad pitcher now? Am I going to throw slow forever? Is this the new me, I guess?

“But getting away from last year and having some time off really helps. I’m excited.”

Howard does feel a lot more confident about his shoulder this year and his chances of rebounding after a tough beginning to his major-league career.

“I think being able to step back this offseason and do the [physical therapy] that I did, made me realize that it’s not coming from my shoulder necessarily, and there are other things that I need to do other than just little soft tissue on my shoulder,” Howard said. “That’ll help keep everything else in balance.”

He’s not exactly sure what he’s up to in terms of velocity goes, but he finds solace in the fact that nobody from the coaching staff has expressed concern. No matter what the Rapsodo device says about his fastball, he feels considerably better about where he’s at now compared to spring training 2.0 of last season.

“It’s a feeling that I was searching for all last year,” Howard said. “[The ball] just wasn’t the same coming out. I’m happy with where I’m at right now.”

Could Girardi use Howard in the bullpen?

Some might say that Howard could be destined to begin the season in the minor leagues if he doesn’t make the big league rotation. Joe Girardi doesn’t necessarily agree with that line of thinking. He even hinted that Howard could be featured out of the bullpen and that the team isn’t married to the idea of using him exclusively as a starter.

“His performances are going to be important during spring training, but you don’t know what’s going to happen to the other guys,” Girardi said Wednesday. “I’m open to anything. If he pitched really well and we said ‘Hey, maybe we’ll put him in the bullpen; the other guys are pitching well too and it’s one way to control his innings.’We’re not really bound to say he’s going to start or that’s it. We’re here to win, so if we have to be a little bit creative, we will be.”

Quick Hits

  • Iván Nova, a non-roster invitee, will start Sunday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Florida. Both Girardi and Tigers manager A.J. Hinch can agree to play a five or seven-inning game. The two teams are required to inform MLB on the length of the game by the late afternoon the day before the scheduled game. This rule is in effect until March 13. Afterward, every spring training game is scheduled to go nine-innings unless the two managers prefer a seven-inning game.
  • Girardi said earlier today that left-handed pitching prospect Bailey Falter stood out during workouts on Wednesday. Falter was elevated to the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 draft last December. “He’s a young left-hander that has a long stride. There’s a lot of extension there and the ball can get on the hitters, so I was impressed with that too.”
  • The Phillies social media team mic’d up Brad Miller for a day and the end result was quite hilarious.


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