The Phillies love Spencer Howard. It’s part of the reason why he’ll spend the beginning of the season at the alternate training site in Lehigh Valley.
They believe his future lies within the team’s starting rotation. If this were a video game, it would be easy to insert him into the rotation right now as the team’s No. 4 or 5 starter. He’s one of the best they have in terms of upside but there are consequences to adding him to the rotation at this second.
To mitigate the risk of injury, Howard will be on an innings limit in 2021. Once the well dries up in terms of Howard’s allotted innings, the Phillies will have to shut him down for the rest of the season. The team prefers to have Howard available for a September run, so they planned accordingly.
“The problem is if you start him off starting right away, stretching him out to five or six innings, you burn through those innings before you can blink,” Dombrowski told reporters on Tuesday. “What we’re going to try to do is use him out of the pen. Sometimes, he may start, but if he starts, it’ll be a two to three-inning type of appearance. [And we can] use him in that middle-long relief.”
Dombrowski stressed that for this season, they won’t expect Howard to be the kind of pitcher to toss an inning after throwing only a dozen pitches in the pen. At the beginning of spring training, Howard said that it took him longer to warm up as his starts moved along in 2020. The worst-case scenario for Howard’s development is a repeat of last season.
“… it was just more of like ‘I don’t have that much there anymore,’” Howard said in Febuary, “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?”
Howard’s in a much better place health-wise as opposed to last summer. He dealt with some back issues in spring, but those appear to be resolved for now. Dombrowski hinted at the possibility of gradually expanding his limit if the 24-year-old is both healthy and pitching at a high level.
The hope is that he could be a full-time starter in 2022, but as of now, he’ll have to settle for a bullpen role once his time in Lehigh Valley is up.
“Eventually, he’s going to a very important member of the Phillies organization as we move forward,” Dombrowski said.
What happened to C.J. Chatham?
The Phillies officially announced the release of infielder C.J. Chatham on Monday. While the Phillies do have to clear three 40-man roster spots to add Matt Joyce, Brandon Kintzler and Ronald Torreyes, Chatham’s release was a bit of a surprise. Dombrowski acquired the 26-year-old in a trade with the Boston Red Sox for a player to be named later.
Dombrowski explained the reasoning as to why Chatham was not placed on waivers. As it turns out, Chatham had an oblique injury. Teams are unable to put a player through waivers if they are injured.
“We do have an interest and a desire to keep him in the organization,” Dombrowski said. “He knows that and we’re hopeful that he’ll be in a position where he may join us and sign a Triple-A contract. We’ll wait and we’ll see.”
- Brad Miller (oblique) is pain-free and expected to be fully healthy in time for the start of the season. He had a few at-bats in a simulated game at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday and is expected to do the same on Wednesday.
- Mets manager Luis Rojas laid out their rotation schedule for the New York media. The Phillies begin a three-game set with the Mets at home on April 5 and are set to face Taijuan Walker in game one, Jacob deGrom in game two and Joey Lucchesi (or an opener) in the finale. The Phillies rotation is Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Zach Eflin, Matt Moore and Chase Anderson in that order. For now, we won’t be getting an early-season Nola vs. deGrom matchup.
- The probable pitchers for the Atlanta Braves during the opening series include Max Fried on Thursday, Charlie Morton on Saturday and Ian Anderson on Sunday.
- Here’s a video of Héctor Neris riding a horse.
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