Phillies starter Spencer Howard left Monday’s game with two outs in the top of the fourth with a calloused-over blister on his right middle finger. The initial blister was suffered during a recent outing with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. The Phillies believe he’ll be fine for his next start, whether it is with the Phillies or with another team.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported after the game that the Phillies aren’t completely against the idea of dealing their former top prospect.
“Of course, there’s always the chance that Howard could be gone by Saturday. There have been indications that the Phillies would be willing to use him in a trade, possibly for relief help. The Phils have targeted Chicago Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel, and had targeted his bullpen mate, Andrew Chafin, before he was dealt to Oakland on Monday night. The price is high on Kimbrel and there are several teams in addition to the Phillies pursuing him. The Phillies’ payout could start with Howard.”Jim Salisbury on Spencer Howard
Matt Gelb of The Athletic offered additional details in his report, writing that at least two teams had scouts on hand to observe Howard.
Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has a reputation for being aggressive at the deadline, but including Howard in a package for a reliever would not make sense considering that the Phillies have an immediate need for an additional starting pitcher or two. Trading Howard means the Phillies will have to replace him in the rotation. Maybe a trade for Kimbrel opens up a spot for either Ranger Suárez or Bailey Falter, who is currently on the COVID-19 IL and is reportedly dealing with symptoms. The only other option on the MLB roster is Chase Anderson, who has been relegated to a low leverage long-relief role.
The Phillies have gone back-and-forth with their plans for Howard all season. He competed for a rotation spot in spring training, was sent down to Triple-A and started for Lehigh Valley, called up as a reliever, sent back down again to stretch out as a starter, called up again once existing options in the back end were deemed ineffective, sent down again with the intention of spending most of the remainder of the season in the minors to simulate a full-season workload and called up again to fill a spot left vacant by players currently on the injured list.
Howard has a 5.72 ERA and 4.00 FIP in 28 1/3 innings with the Phillies this season. He has yet to allow an earned run in the first and second innings of a start this season, but has a 10.80 ERA in innings three and four combined. While his average fastball velocity is around 95 mph in the first inning, it drops down to 93 by the fourth inning of starts, according to Brooks Baseball.
If the Phillies had more MLB ready starting pitching at Triple-A, maybe a Howard trade would be more likely. That is far from the case, so it seems like the safe bet is to expect Howard to make his next start Saturday in Pittsburgh.
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