Spencer Howard didn't throw any temper tantrums when he found out he was being sent back to Triple A before the Phillies played the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night. The chill right-hander took the demotion in stride, showing no outward signs of disappointment.
Made you wonder if he was relieved to get the news.
"No, I wouldn't say (it's a) relief," he said. "Obviously, I would want to be here over Lehigh but I'm just trying to think big picture of going back and getting everything dialed in. I know for sure that long term it'll be good."
Howard made five starts since coming up from Lehigh Valley in late May. He averaged just over three innings per start and pitched to a 4.60 ERA in 15⅔ innings. He gave up 10 hits, 11 walks and struck out 16.
Howard's starts have been marked by a decline in velocity after the first couple of innings, leading some to wonder if he might be better suited to a bullpen role.
That's not happening any time soon.
"They just said, 'We see you as a starter,' and they want me to essentially build as one," Howard said. "So I'm heading back to Lehigh to get on a normal schedule starting."
Howard said the goal was to build to 100 pitches as a starter. He will work on improving his use of his off-speed pitches.
"Just continue to pound off-speed in the zone," he said. "Try to get that really dialed in. That will make the fastball play better, essentially."
Howard, who will turn 25 on July 28, has been the Phillies' top pitching prospect for three years, but minor injuries, ineffectiveness, mechanical issues and the stops and starts that came with the pandemic have all slowed his development. He has not built the workload that would make team officials feel comfortable turning him loose without restriction in a rotation.
By next season, the Phils would like to see Howard carry a significant load in their rotation.
They need him to.
That's why this demotion is a development opportunity for Howard, an investment in his future -- away from the pressure of a playoff chase.
"I think long run it'll be for the better," he said. "I see where they're coming from with like wanting to win games and wanting me to be here versus building and all that's going on. To me, it all makes sense. Now that I get to go down and focus on developing and not putting the team in jeopardy and not having to worry about contributing to winning games.
"I'd say, probably the last year and a half, my mechanics just haven't felt like myself. Finally, the last two appearances, I felt glimpses of it with the fastball. So it's just a matter of getting the core inefficient stuff that became my normal out of my brain."
With Howard gone, the Phillies are looking at a five-man rotation, for now, of Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez and Matt Moore.
There's no set timetable for Howard's return. The Phillies just hope that when he does come back, he'll be capable of staying.