Phillies have serious concerns with Spencer Howard. How long can the Phillies wait for Spencer Howard to emerge? That seems to be the question on the minds of all Phillies fans and analysts following Saturday’s 5-2 victory over the Nationals.
Making his third big league start of the season, the young right-hander was pulled after only 2 1/3 innings. Ranger Suárez took over and pitched three scoreless innings in relief. Howard was only charged with only one unearned run following a flubbed play by Segura. The problem is he struggled with his control and was once again erratic with his velocity.
Each start this season has had a pattern. Howard comes out firing before hitting a wall. In the first inning, his fastball averaged 94.9 mph and he topped out at 97.3 mph giving up zero hits. In the third inning, everything changed. Howard allowed a leadoff single to opposing starter Joe Ross, then was lifted after hitting Josh Harrison with a changeup two batters later. His velocity drops in the third significantly. His fastball averaged 92.6 mph and topped out at 93.6 mph. Spencer’s control was in question in the few innings he pitched. His first two starts played out the same way. After just a couple of innings, his velocity abruptly decreases quickly.
After that first start, Howard attributed the decline in velocity to being winded and not getting his heart rate back down after running out a ball to first base. Yes, a professional athlete made that comment! When you are being groomed as a starting pitcher in the MLB and you lose your velocity because you ran to first base, concerns will arise. Someone needs to work on his inner monologue.
What is Best for Spencer Howard
Following the game NBCsports Phillies Insider, Jim Salisbury asked Joe Girardi, “Maybe Ranger Suarez should be starting and Spencer Howard should be coming out of the bullpen?” I think that is a question many people are asking watching Ranger bail Howards shaky start out yet again. Maybe Howard should be coming out of the pen but the Phillies would be done to one lefty in the pen if Ranger goes to the starting rotation.
The other question is maybe Howard should be in the minors, learning how to get to the middle innings. He should be able to get that far before holding down a spot in a big-league starting rotation. Howard has been the Phillies’ top starting pitching prospect for years now. He is far from a finished product and has a long road in front of him. He will not be 25 until late July but is his future consist of him as a starter or a reliever? Does he go back to the minors for more growth and refinement? Time will tell. Phillies have serious concerns with Spencer Howard.