Phillies

When will pitching prospect Spencer Howard’s bright future in Philly begin?

When will pitching prospect Spencer Howard’s bright future in Philly begin?

Like everyone else in the Phillies organization, new pitching coach Bryan Price has been impressed with right-hander Spencer Howard.

"If this kid is the guy we think he is — and we do — then he's going to have a really nice future in Philadelphia," Price said.

So when will that future begin?

Months ago, before baseball was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, Phillies officials envisioned Howard getting to the majors at some point in 2020.

It wasn't going to happen at the start of the season — for a couple of reasons. First, after pitching just 92⅓ innings and dealing with shoulder tendinitis last season, Howard's workload was going to monitored closely in 2020. The Phillies were going to pull him back early in the season so he could use his bullets — in the majors — later in the season. Pulling in the reins on Howard early in the season would have also allowed the Phillies to push back the pitcher's potential free agency by a year. That's not a popular practice with players — and it might be addressed by the union in negotiations for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement — but it makes sense from a front-office perspective.

Baseball's shutdown has eliminated the need to limit Howard's workload for 2020. If he was part of the Phillies' starting rotation for the entire 60-game season, he would make about a dozen starts. No problem.

But the whole service-time, extra-year-of-control matter still exists. That's why the Phillies might decide against putting Howard on the active, 30-man roster when the season opens a week from Friday night. The team could hold Howard back six days before adding him to the roster and therefore preserve the extra year of control. In those six days, Howard would probably pitch once and with early-season innings limits on all pitchers, he'd probably max out about 65 pitches or four innings in that outing. Trading a year of control for four innings — even in a short season when every game is magnified — makes little sense. So, it won't be surprising if Howard continues to build innings with the satellite club in Lehigh Valley for at least a week or so when the Phillies start the season.

But that doesn't mean Howard won't be around for the bulk of the season.

He'll get here.

Probably quickly.

And if he performs well, he'll stay — possibly with a significant spot in the rotation.

"I would really hope and expect to see him pitching here if not on opening day, then at some point in time because he really needs the work and I think he's ready to compete at this level," said Price, who was previously pitching coach in Seattle, Arizona and Cincinnati. (He also managed the Reds.) 

Howard, who turns 24 in two weeks, has been touted as having top-of-the-rotation potential.

Price, however, is reluctant to comment on Howard's ceiling and that's probably wise. Howard was selected in the second round of the 2017 draft. He has reached 100 innings in the minors just once. He will control his own career trajectory. And he needs to be on the mound to do that.

"You don't really want to talk about repetitions or the importance of workload, but you can't turn a blind eye to it either," Price said.

"I stay away from (commenting on a pitcher's ceiling) and I'll tell you why. Because when you start talking about assigning expectations, especially if you rank like No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 — we don't know what these guys are until they come up here and perform.

"We know that (Howard) would be a top-end prospect in any organization because he has power, he throws strikes, he's athletic, he has a really, really good changeup and breaking ball. The key component there is stuff with strikes, stuff with command. So the sky is the limit.

"In the same respect, you have to get to the big leagues and perform at this level before you define where you are: starter or reliever, No. 1 or No. 5, or somewhere in between. I'll reserve judgment on that and let him pitch his way wherever he gets to."

In other words, the ball is in Howard's hand and he will control the trajectory of his career.

He next gets the ball on Thursday when he's scheduled to pitch three innings in an intrasquad game.

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Phillies to retire slugger Dick Allen’s No. 15; Cooperstown next?

ap_dick_allen_phillies.jpg
AP

Phillies to retire slugger Dick Allen’s No. 15; Cooperstown next?

Dick Allen, the power-hitting former Phillie known for bashing baseballs over the wall, and, occasionally, the roof, at old Connie Mack Stadium, will have his uniform number raised onto the wall at Citizens Bank Park later this summer.

The team announced on Thursday that it would retire Allen's No. 15 on Sept. 3, the 57th anniversary of Allen's Phillies debut.

"Dick Allen burst onto the 1964 Phillies and immediately established himself as a superstar," Phillies managing partner John Middleton said in a statement. "His legendary performance on the field gave millions of fans lasting memories, and he helped cement my love for baseball and the Phillies as a young boy. The Phillies organization is thrilled to give Dick and his family this honor that recognizes his Hall of Fame-worthy career and his legacy as one of the greatest Phillies of all time."

Allen will become the eighth former Phillie to have his number retired by the club, joining Richie Ashburn (1), Jim Bunning (14), Mike Schmidt (20), Steve Carlton (32), Robin Roberts (36) and Roy Halladay (34). Grover Cleveland Alexander and Chuck Klein did not wear regular numbers, but their jerseys have been retired.

Allen is the only one of these players not to be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, but that could change in December when he once again will be on the Hall of Fame's Golden Days ballot. The Golden Days committee considers those who played from 1950 to 1969. Allen fell one vote shy of making the Hall of Fame when the committee last voted in December 2014 and there has been considerable public support for his election this time. Schmidt has come out in support of Allen and Mark Carfagno, a former Veterans Stadium groundskeeper and close friend of Allen, has led a social media campaign.

Retiring Allen's number without his being a Hall of Famer touches on an interesting and growing debate surrounding the Phillies.

The team previously had an unwritten policy of only retiring the numbers of players who had been elected to the Hall of Fame. By retiring Allen's number at this time, the Phillies have left open the possibility of retiring the numbers worn by Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. None of the three have appeared on a Hall of Fame ballot yet and their candidacies are far from being slam dunks.

But as Phillies players, Rollins, Utley and Howard were all-time greats — the best shortstop, second baseman and first baseman, respectively, in club history. Their contributions helped the Phillies win five division titles, two National League pennants and a World Series from 2007-11. Rollins is the franchise's all-time hits leader and a former NL MVP. Utley was the Phillies' most popular player and the top offensive second baseman in the game until knee injuries robbed him of some of his prime years. Howard was an NL rookie of the year, an MVP and a home run and RBI king.

If the Phillies are going to consider non-Hall of Famers for number retirement, they also could one day look at Charlie Manuel, the World Series-winning manager who presided over the most successful period in club history, and Larry Bowa, a brilliant shortstop, World Series champion, and fan favorite who has contributed to the organization for decades as a player, coach, manager, adviser and ambassador.

Allen, 68, still works for the Phillies as ambassador. A native of Wampum, Pennsylvania (northwest of Pittsburgh), he signed with the Phillies as an 18-year-old in 1960. Four years later, the young third baseman hit .318 with 38 doubles, 13 triples, 29 home runs and 91 RBIs. The seemingly pennant-bound Phillies infamously collapsed down the stretch in that 1964 season, but Allen was named NL rookie of the year, an award that was later renamed in honor of one of his heroes, Jackie Robinson.

Allen spent nine of his 15 seasons with the Phillies and represented the club three times as an All-Star. He hit 204 of his 351 career homers with the Phillies. He swung a bat so big — 40 ounces or more in some seasons — that teammates thought it was a weighted bat used for warmups. Allen finished fourth in the NL MVP race in 1966 behind Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax and Willie Mays. He hit .317 with 25 doubles, 10 triples, 40 homers, 110 RBIs and a league-leading .632 slugging percentage that season.

Allen twice led the American League in homers, slugging and OPS for the Chicago White Sox, including in 1972 when he was AL MVP.

On the all-time list, Allen ranks 43rd with a .536 slugging percentage.

In an 11-year stretch from 1964 to 1974, in an era of dominant pitchers, he was one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. He averaged 29 homers and 89 RBIs over that span while hitting .299 with a .940 OPS. Only Hall of Famer Hank Aaron's .941 OPS was better over that span. Allen slugged .554 from 1964 to 1974, second only to Aaron's .561. Only Hall of Famers Billy Williams and Aaron had more extra-base hits than Allen's 670 in that 11-year run.

Allen posted better numbers than many of his contemporaries who were elected to the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Allen, however, never received more than 18.9 percent of the necessary 75 percent for election to the Hall by the writers. He fell off the ballot in 1997.

Allen's Hall of Fame candidacy during his time on the writers' ballot was clearly impacted by some of the off-field baggage he'd accumulated as a player. As a young player, Allen was occasionally rebellious and insubordinate. He battled with teammates and managers and was a target for fans. He tried to force a trade from Philadelphia by writing messages in the dirt around first base at Connie Mack Stadium.

The passage of time has offered new and more empathetic perspectives on Allen's behavior and what he was going through at the time. He dealt with racism as a Phillies minor-leaguer in the South. The Phillies were the last team in the NL to integrate and Allen was the club's first African American star at a time of racial tension in America.

Allen is the first African American to have his number retired by the Phillies. Backup catcher Andrew Knapp had been wearing No. 15. He will switch to No. 7.

And now, with his number going up on the bricks beyond the centerfield wall at Citizens Bank Park, the only remaining question regarding Dick Allen's greatness as a player will be answered this winter when the Hall of Fame's Golden Days Committee considers his merits once again.

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Phillies to promote prospect Alec Bohm, per sources

Phillies to promote prospect Alec Bohm, per sources

Alec Bohm is on his way to Philly, sources have confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. The Phillies will promote their top position player prospect to the active roster. The news was first reported by The Athletic.

No corresponding move has been announced and it's not immediately known whose place on the 28-man roster Bohm will take. A position player going on the IL seems like a strong possibility.

Bohm, a corner infielder, hit .305/.378/.518 with 21 home runs and 80 RBIs in 540 plate appearances last season at Lakewood (A), Clearwater (High A) and Reading (Double A). He did not spend any time at Triple A.

The Phillies' corner infielders have struggled early. First baseman Rhys Hoskins has hit .190 with one RBI and third baseman Jean Segura has hit .205. Both were involved in a costly misplay in the ninth inning Tuesday. Second baseman Scott Kingery is also off to a slow start at 4 for 40. He had been sick with COVID earlier in the summer and appears to still be building strength.

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