Justin Bour's injury comes at worst time for Phillies

Justin Bour's injury comes at worst time for Phillies

This wasn't how the Phillies drew it up when they made a flurry of additions in late July and early August.

Justin Bour was placed on the 10-day DL Thursday with an oblique strain (see story).

Aaron Loup is on the DL with a forearm strain.

Wilson Ramos has been out since Sunday with a sore left wrist.

Bad news on Bour

The Bour injury will hurt. Hitters, on average, miss 27 days with oblique strains, according to a study conducted by former Dodgers trainer Stan Conte.

While Bour doesn't think this oblique strain is as big a deal as the one that kept him out seven weeks last season, it seems highly unlikely he'll be ready in under three weeks. Which means he'd be looking at a return date of mid-September at the earliest.

Aside from missing Bour's bat, this injury hurts because it comes just days after the Cubs claimed Daniel Murphy. The Phillies were two spots ahead of the Cubs in the waiver order when Murphy was claimed. They let him pass through, likely because they had recently added another left-handed hitter with defensive limitations in Bour. Had they known Bour was about to hit the DL, they probably would have claimed Murphy. The Cubs ended up giving up next to nothing for him.

Ramos back this weekend?

Ramos thinks he'll be good to go by Friday in Toronto. It makes sense to ease him back in as a designated hitter. The Phillies called up catcher Andrew Knapp from Triple A to replace Bour on the active roster. 

It's a good sign that Ramos hasn't yet been placed on the DL. 

His bat was missed in Thursday's lineup against Max Scherzer, a pitcher against whom you need all the offense you can get. Jorge Alfaro entered Thursday's game 0 for 5 with five strikeouts against Scherzer, with four of those K's coming on three pitches.

More on the Phillies

Will Phillies promote pitching prospect Spencer Howard in September? Discussions ongoing

Will Phillies promote pitching prospect Spencer Howard in September? Discussions ongoing

MIAMI — Spencer Howard, the Phillies’ top pitching prospect, tossed another gem for Double A Reading on Thursday night.

The possibility of the right-hander helping out the big club in September has been mentioned for weeks.

So, what does the manager think?

“I think Spencer has great stuff and he’s had tremendous results and yesterday’s game was no exception,” Gabe Kapler said Friday. “I think everybody is sort of dreaming on what he can be. Whether that happens at some point late this season or it happens next year, I think it’s inevitable that Spencer Howard is going to be on a big-league mound and I don’t think it’s going to take very long.”

Kapler was asked if there would be a hesitation to bring up Howard if the Phillies are still in the race in September.

“I think those discussions are ongoing,” he said. “You’re always trying to balance long-term development with what the club needs and does the pitcher appear ready to help. There’s a lot of things to consider when talking about when is the right time to advance Spencer Howard.”

In addition to simple readiness, both physical and mental, matters to cover when discussing whether to bring up Howard in September likely include the Phillies’ place in the standings, the need for him in relation to the performance of the rest of the rotation, starting his big-league service-time clock, and one other less obvious subject.

The baseball.

Howard has dominated hitters in the Single A Florida State League and Double A Eastern League this season. In 60 innings, he’s allowed 12 earned runs (1.80 ERA) and 36 hits. He has rung up 80 strikeouts and walked just 11. He pitched six shutout innings, gave up two hits, walked none and struck out seven for Reading against Hartford on Thursday night.

Howard has done all of his work this season with a baseball that is different than the one used in the majors and Triple A. The Major League ball, which is being used for the first time in Triple A this season, has smaller, tighter and less pronounced seams. It is made from a higher quality leather than the ball being used at the Double A level and below. And it flies. (MLB is headed toward a record-setting season for home runs.) 

Pitchers notice a difference in the feel of the two baseballs and that feel can affect performance. As an example, Kapler mentioned Damon Jones, a Phillies pitching prospect who rocketed up the system from Single A this season and has struggled at Triple A.

“One thing we’ve seen is the adjustment to the baseball is real,” Kapler said. “It’s a difficult thing just going from Double A to Triple A. We’ve seen it with Damon Jones. He was essentially unhittable in A ball and Double A and he struggled more as he reached the Triple A level and had to adjust to the new ball.”

There are several factors, beyond his performance, that make Howard a good consideration for a September promotion. He’s 23 and mature. He was a second-round pick in the 2017 draft out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. And he will have innings left in his arm after missing time this season with what the team called shoulder fatigue.

September is fast approaching. We’ll know soon if Howard, profiled here, is going to be part of the Phillies’ September push.

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More on the Phillies

At The Yard podcast: How to avoid another Miami letdown; NL Cy Young race; scary Nationals


At The Yard podcast: How to avoid another Miami letdown; NL Cy Young race; scary Nationals

On this episode of "At the Yard," Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman break down how the Phillies can avoid another letdown in Miami and handicap the NL Cy Young race and wild-card races.

• Anything less than 4-2 vs. the Marlins and Pirates would be a major fail for the Phils.

• How to avoid another letdown in Miami — made more difficult by Bryce Harper's absence.

• Are the Nationals more dangerous than the Braves?

• Who will win NL Cy Young?

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Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19