Phillies

Top Phillies pitching prospect Spencer Howard set to take the mound again

Top Phillies pitching prospect Spencer Howard set to take the mound again

Top Phillies pitching prospect Spencer Howard will start next Friday.

In the Arizona Fall League.

The Phillies are sticking to their plan of not rushing the 23-year-old right-hander into a big-league pennant race. Howard is tentatively scheduled to make five starts in the AFL. He will be limited to five innings or 75 pitches in those outings.

Howard had a 2.03 ERA in 71 innings between Single A and Double A this season. He made six regular-season starts at Double A Reading and allowed just 20 hits and eight earned runs in 30 2/3 innings. He struck out 38 and walked nine over that span. He topped it all off with a strong start against Trenton in the Eastern League playoffs — seven innings, two hits, two runs, two walks, 12 strikeouts on Sept. 4.

Phillies officials talked about bringing Howard to the majors in September but in the end took a conservative approach because of his lack of experience above Double A. Team officials were also cognizant of the fact that Howard has never pitched competitively with a big-league ball. The balls used in the majors and Triple A are wound tighter and have lower seams than the ones used in Double A and below. Some have described the big-league as a cue ball and a number of young pitchers have had difficulty with the adjustment (see story).

Howard has thrown bullpen sessions with a big-league ball and will continue to do so in off-season workouts. The AFL does not use big-league balls.

Howard will have to make a quick adjustment to the big-league ball next season. He is expected to receive an invite to big-league spring training camp and could challenge for a spot in the rotation out of camp or shortly after the start of the season.

“He's got some of the best stuff we've seen in our system,” said Josh Bonifay, the team’s director of player development. “We would expect him to be there in the future. I don't know when, but be there in the future.”

Alec Bohm is another top prospect who could be in big-league spring-training camp in February. The third baseman was honored before Saturday night’s game with the Paul Owens Award as the organization’s top minor-league position player in 2019. Lefty Ethan Lindow won the award on the pitching side.

Bohm, a 23-year-old third baseman, was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2018. He hit .305 with 30 doubles, 21 homers and 80 RBIs in 125 games between Single A and Double A.

Lindow, 20, had a 2.52 ERA in 110 2/3 innings at two levels of Single A ball.

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J.T. Realmuto feeling 'blessed' as he heads into arbitration showdown with Phillies

J.T. Realmuto feeling 'blessed' as he heads into arbitration showdown with Phillies

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto will participate in Tuesday’s workout before taking a flight to Phoenix for Wednesday’s salary arbitration hearing.

Realmuto is dreading the long flight, not the hearing.

“One way or another, I’m going to be playing baseball in Philly this year,” he said. “I’m going to either be making $10 million or $12 million, and I’ll be happy either way. I’m blessed to get to do what I do for a living for a lot of money so either way, I’m happy.”

Realmuto is actually seeking $12.4 million. The Phillies have filed at $10 million. The arbitration panel will select one figure or the other. There is no middle ground (more details here).

Realmuto, who made $5.9 million last year, is in his third and final year of arbitration and is scheduled to become a free agent after this season. To date, the highest-paid catcher in that class was Matt Wieters, who avoided a hearing with Baltimore and made $8.275 million 2015. Catcher Mike Napoli actually made more — $9.4 million — in a negotiated settlement with the Texas Rangers in 2012, but he was in his fourth year of arbitration because of his Super-Two status with the Anaheim Angels in 2009.

So, no matter how the arbitration panel rules, Realmuto’s 2020 salary will be a record for an arbitration-eligible catcher.

Once Realmuto’s 2020 salary is established, the Phillies will turn their attention to negotiating a long-term contract extension with him. Realmuto is expected to seek in the neighborhood of $23 million per season, matching Joe Mauer’s record salary for a catcher, over a five- or six-year deal. 

The Phillies would like to get a deal done by opening day to avoid any potential distractions. Would Realmuto negotiate during the season?

“We haven’t gotten there yet,” Realmuto said. “I’ll talk with my agent and we’ll communicate with Matt (Klentak, the general manager) and let him know.”

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Joe Girardi asks Phillies players to give him their hearts — and their trots

Joe Girardi asks Phillies players to give him their hearts — and their trots

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Joe Girardi officially opened his first Phillies spring training camp by telling the players to give him their hearts.

“He knows if he can get our heart, he’ll get our best on the field,” J.T. Realmuto said.

Both Girardi and managing partner John Middleton stressed that the goal was to play deep into October. The Phillies have not been to the postseason since 2011.

Middleton reminded the players of the passion that Philadelphia fans have and urged them to give back to the fans by playing the game hard and respecting it.

Girardi roamed the fields of Carpenter Complex during the workout. He lightened the mood at the end of a base-running drill by asking a group of players, including Jean Segura, to show off their home run trots.

“Just to have some fun,” Girardi said after the workout.

The home-run trot "drill" came with some instructions.

“Make sure you run hard before you know it's out,” he told the players. “The big thing is if you run hard to first, there is a great chance it'll be out by then. Then you don't get caught on first base or caught on second base when you should be a base ahead. Just run hard.”

Phillies pitchers will begin throwing live batting practice during Tuesday’s workout.

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