For weeks, we wondered when Spencer Howard would make his first big-league start.
Now, we wonder when he’ll make his second.
Friday is Howard’s day to pitch again.
But it’s also Vince Velasquez’ day to pitch.
So, who’s getting the ball that night against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park?
“We're going to prepare them both to start on Friday,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said Monday, one day after Howard’s not-great-but-not-bad-either debut against the Atlanta Braves.
Girardi said he would name a starter by Thursday.
Whoever doesn’t start Friday's game could be used in multiple-inning relief that night.
“We could piggyback them,” Girardi said.
The Phillies need to keep both Howard and Velasquez stretched out because they will need a sixth starter the following week because of a doubleheader against Toronto. Beyond that, the Phils have four doubleheaders in September so they will need six starters for most of that month.
Velasquez and Howard each started one of the games in Sunday’s doubleheader against the Braves. The Phillies lost both games. Velasquez pitched four innings and allowed three hits, a run and three walks. He struck out six. Howard pitched 4 2/3 innings and allowed four runs and a walk. He struck out four. He threw a first-pitch strike to 17 of 22 hitters but was tagged for a pair of homers by Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman.
There are reasons why the Phillies might choose Howard to start Friday’s game over Velasquez:
- Howard represents the future and could be a foundation piece in the Phillies’ rotation for years to come. Why not start grooming him now?
- Velasquez has been inconsistent in the rotation for four-plus seasons. He does have some experience working out of the bullpen.
Another potential reason: The Mets have never seen Howard while Velasquez is 2-4 with a 4.35 ERA in 11 career starts against them. There aren’t many secrets in this era of data and video scouting, but the Mets’ lack of firsthand familiarity with Howard could help the pitcher.