Joe Girardi has not yet named a starting pitcher for Sunday's game against the Atlanta Braves, but he's dropping hints.
"TBA," he said with a grin before Thursday's game against the Yankees. "Stay tuned. There's a guy we could use in a lot of different roles."
That guy could very well be top pitching prospect Spencer Howard.
The Phillies have long envisioned the 24-year-old right-hander making an impact in the big leagues this season. That time could come Sunday. The Phillies need a starter after using both Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola in a doubleheader on Wednesday.
When Howard comes up, he will likely stay. He is not the type of talent that gets yo-yoed back and forth between Triple A, or the satellite camp, as it is called this season. It remains to be seen, however, in what role Howard will make the most impact this season. Though his future is clearly as a starter, the Phillies have discussed using him as a reliever who can pitch multiple high-leverage innings.
Ultimately, Howard will determine the role in which he pitches. If he gets Sunday's start and pitches well, it would be difficult to imagine him not getting another start. Down the road in this 60-game season, the doubleheaders will stack up on the Phillies and they'll actually need more than five starters.
Howard received high praise from a couple of Phillies on Thursday. Jean Segura faced Howard several times during summer camp and raved about his electric fastball and how it got on right-handed hitters quickly. Relief pitcher Tommy Hunter has been equally impressed. In fact, when told that Howard was a candidate to start on Sunday, Hunter said, "Yay."
Hunter added: "He's really good. He's a special talent. I've gotten to see him pitch a few times. He's a good kid who has a lot of talent. It'll be fun to see him put that on display."