CLEARWATER, Fla. — Phillies pitchers completed their fourth day of official bullpen sessions on Saturday, but one notable starter has yet to participate.
Spencer Howard, the organization’s top pitching prospect, tweaked his right knee in a pre-camp workout last weekend, manager Joe Girardi revealed after Saturday’s workout.
Howard had a precautionary MRI during the week and checked out fine. He has continued to participate in throwing drills and did some running Saturday, but his mound work – which he began before camp started – has been paused and there’s no timetable for its restart. Howard has also temporarily ceased doing pitcher fielding drills.
Howard said he tweaked the knee doing a broad-jumping exercise in the weight room last weekend.
“Just landed kind of funny, but no big deal,” he said. "The MRI was all clear.
"Nothing is like actually injured, just pretty much gives me an excuse to do nothing early.”
That fits into the Phillies’ big-picture plan for Howard, who will be on a workload/innings limit this season. The 23-year-old right-hander dealt with shoulder tendinitis last season and has pitched over 100 innings just once in his pro career. Phillies officials envision Howard making an impact at the big-league level at some point in 2020 and would like to save some of his budgeted bullets for later in the season.
“He’s been fine since he was checked out,” Girardi said. “But this kind of gives us the luxury of making sure that we don’t rush him.”
Howard was the Phillies’ second-round draft pick in 2017. He has averaged 12 strikeouts per nine innings in his minor-league career.
Baseball America recently ranked Howard 27th on its list of Top 100 prospects. (Third baseman Alec Bohm ranked 28th.) Baseball America’s commentary on Howard included this: Triple-digit fastball, swing-and-miss curveball and the ability to work the edges of the strike zone, Howard flashes front-end potential.