Phillies: Spencer Howard could join the club this week

A general view of the field at Citizens Bank Park. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
A general view of the field at Citizens Bank Park. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) /

The Phillies top pitching prospect could be here soon

After a poor season debut by Vince Velasquez on Sunday, the Phillies could turn to their top prospect Spencer Howard sooner rather than later.

Howard started an intrasquad game in Lehigh Valley with the rest of the designated Phillies players and prospects who didn’t make the 30-man opening day roster.

In four innings Howard gave up four hits (two singles and two doubles), two walks, and had four strikeouts.

It’s likely not a coincidence the Phillies had Howard’s starts line up with Velasquez, who had to compete for the final starting rotation spot. His poor start on Friday was likely his last as a Phillie, going only three innings with three hits, four runs, and two walks against the Marlins.

Philadelphia has lined it up where Howard can jump into the rotation in place of Velasquez on Friday against the Blue Jays. That game is expected to be played in Buffalo at the Blue Jays Triple-A facility where they’ll play their home games in 2020.

Howard’s big league debut, whether it’s Friday or later this season, will be one of the most anticipated debut for a Phillies pitching prospect since Cole Hamels in 2006. Despite never pitching in Triple-A, many consider Howard to already be big league ready.

Howard didn’t make the Phillies rotation out of “summer camp” due to service time rules. If the Phillies had Howard appear in the big leagues in the first five days of the season, they would have lost a full season of control. Giving up one start for a full season of control from a guy who might be your number two starter going forward is not worth it.

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The Phillies don’t have time to give Velasquez another opportunity in the rotation, especially this year where one game is so much bigger. With the bullpen going such a wreck already, the team might as well give Velasquez an opportunity to establish himself as a powerful reliever.