Joe Girardi

When will pitching prospect Spencer Howard’s bright future in Philly begin?

When will pitching prospect Spencer Howard’s bright future in Philly begin?

Like everyone else in the Phillies organization, new pitching coach Bryan Price has been impressed with right-hander Spencer Howard.

"If this kid is the guy we think he is — and we do — then he's going to have a really nice future in Philadelphia," Price said.

So when will that future begin?

Months ago, before baseball was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, Phillies officials envisioned Howard getting to the majors at some point in 2020.

It wasn't going to happen at the start of the season — for a couple of reasons. First, after pitching just 92⅓ innings and dealing with shoulder tendinitis last season, Howard's workload was going to monitored closely in 2020. The Phillies were going to pull him back early in the season so he could use his bullets — in the majors — later in the season. Pulling in the reins on Howard early in the season would have also allowed the Phillies to push back the pitcher's potential free agency by a year. That's not a popular practice with players — and it might be addressed by the union in negotiations for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement — but it makes sense from a front-office perspective.

Baseball's shutdown has eliminated the need to limit Howard's workload for 2020. If he was part of the Phillies' starting rotation for the entire 60-game season, he would make about a dozen starts. No problem.

But the whole service-time, extra-year-of-control matter still exists. That's why the Phillies might decide against putting Howard on the active, 30-man roster when the season opens a week from Friday night. The team could hold Howard back six days before adding him to the roster and therefore preserve the extra year of control. In those six days, Howard would probably pitch once and with early-season innings limits on all pitchers, he'd probably max out about 65 pitches or four innings in that outing. Trading a year of control for four innings — even in a short season when every game is magnified — makes little sense. So, it won't be surprising if Howard continues to build innings with the satellite club in Lehigh Valley for at least a week or so when the Phillies start the season.

But that doesn't mean Howard won't be around for the bulk of the season.

He'll get here.

Probably quickly.

And if he performs well, he'll stay — possibly with a significant spot in the rotation.

"I would really hope and expect to see him pitching here if not on opening day, then at some point in time because he really needs the work and I think he's ready to compete at this level," said Price, who was previously pitching coach in Seattle, Arizona and Cincinnati. (He also managed the Reds.) 

Howard, who turns 24 in two weeks, has been touted as having top-of-the-rotation potential.

Price, however, is reluctant to comment on Howard's ceiling and that's probably wise. Howard was selected in the second round of the 2017 draft. He has reached 100 innings in the minors just once. He will control his own career trajectory. And he needs to be on the mound to do that.

"You don't really want to talk about repetitions or the importance of workload, but you can't turn a blind eye to it either," Price said.

"I stay away from (commenting on a pitcher's ceiling) and I'll tell you why. Because when you start talking about assigning expectations, especially if you rank like No. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 — we don't know what these guys are until they come up here and perform.

"We know that (Howard) would be a top-end prospect in any organization because he has power, he throws strikes, he's athletic, he has a really, really good changeup and breaking ball. The key component there is stuff with strikes, stuff with command. So the sky is the limit.

"In the same respect, you have to get to the big leagues and perform at this level before you define where you are: starter or reliever, No. 1 or No. 5, or somewhere in between. I'll reserve judgment on that and let him pitch his way wherever he gets to."

In other words, the ball is in Howard's hand and he will control the trajectory of his career.

He next gets the ball on Thursday when he's scheduled to pitch three innings in an intrasquad game.

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Phillies roster: Initial 53-man 'summer camp' group announced

Phillies roster: Initial 53-man 'summer camp' group announced

The Phillies announced a 53-man "summer camp" roster on Sunday night.

The roster can grow to 60 as the team continues to formulate its pool of players for the 60-game season that will begin on July 23 or 24. 

Teams will be able to carry 30 players on their active roster for the first two weeks of the season. The number shrinks to 28 after two weeks and then to 26 two weeks after that.

Once the season begins, players in the 60-man pool who are not on the active big-league roster will continue to train as a unit at a satellite training site. Lehigh Valley is the Phillies' satellite site.

All 53 players named to the roster on Sunday will participate in "spring training 2," which begins this week at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies' 53-man list includes 31 pitchers, 10 infielders, three catchers and nine outfielders. Top pitching prospect Spencer Howard is on the list. 

The Phillies can add up to seven more players to their list. The team could risk losing a player if it removes him from the list.

Two pitchers, David Robertson and Seranthony Dominguez, are on the 60-day disabled list. Robertson had Tommy John surgery in August. Dominguez is headed for Tommy John surgery.

Pitchers

Jose Alvarez
Victor Arano
Jake Arrieta
Conner Brogdon
Garrett Cleavinger
Enyel De Los Santos
Zach Eflin
Edgar Garcia
Deolis Guerra
Spencer Howard
Tommy Hunter
Cole Irvin
Damon Jones
Trevor Kelley
Francisco Liriano
Mauricio Llovera
Reggie McClain
Adam Morgan
Hector Neris
Aaron Nola
Bud Norris
Blake Parker
Nick Pivetta
JoJo Romero
Ramon Rosso
Addison Russ
Connor Seabold
Robert Stock
Ranger Suarez
Vince Velasquez
Zack Wheeler

Catchers

Deivy Grullon
Andrew Knapp
J.T. Realmuto

Infielders

Alec Bohm
Logan Forsythe
Phil Gosselin
Didi Gregorius
Josh Harrison
Rhys Hoskins
Scott Kingery
Jean Segura
Ronald Torreyes
Neil Walker

Outfielders

Jay Bruce
Kyle Garlick
Bryce Harper
Adam Haseley
Mikie Mahtook
Nick Martini
Andrew McCutchen
Roman Quinn
Nick Williams

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Joe Girardi discusses managing differently ahead of strange 60-game season

Joe Girardi discusses managing differently ahead of strange 60-game season

Joe Girardi shared some of his priorities for this strange season ahead while on MLB Network this week.

"There is much more thought into this than ever before," the Phillies' first-year manager said.

Nobody expects starting pitchers to go deep into games in their early starts because they won't have the same stamina built up from a normal ramp-up period. Nor will many hitters have the timing they'd emerge with from a full spring training.

Girardi cautioned that relievers also must be handled delicately.

"You can't start running your relievers out there a number of days in a row just because it's not a marathon, it's a sprint," he said. "You think about position players, how many games are they really going to play before they go into the regular season compared to a normal spring training?

"There's a fine line as managers that we walk to make sure players aren't overused. Because think about it, if you hurt someone or they go on the (injured list) for 2-3 weeks, that could cost you your season."

To keep players fresher during this 60-game-in-66-day sprint, Girardi plans to use Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Rhys Hoskins and Andrew McCutchen as the designated hitter at times. Jay Bruce figures to be the Phillies' primary DH, but Girardi also wants to get those four key players off of their feet when he can.

Earlier this week, Rockies superstar Charlie Blackmon reportedly tested positive for coronavirus. It is almost inevitable that a key player or key players will test positive during this 60-game season and teams will have to battle through that adversity. No matter how good a team is going, its momentum could be derailed at any point over the next few months. The teams with the deepest rosters should have even more of an advantage than in a typical season.

"We're gonna manage different but you better be smart about it," Girardi said. "If we all put our heads together and make sure we're all responsible when we're away from the field, I think we can do this."

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