Phillies: What to expect from Spencer Howard in MLB debut
By Hunter Doyle
What should Phillies fans expect from Spencer Howard in his MLB debut?
The bad news for this weekend? The Philadelphia Phillies have to play another doubleheader on Sunday. The good news? Spencer Howard, the organization’s top pitching prospect, will start in one of those two games against the Atlanta Braves.
Phillies fans had a feeling this would happen at some point this year. The starting rotation was one of the weak points coming into this season. Plus, it’s better to get Howard experience this year, with no minor league season; now, they have the extra year of control on his contract.
The Phillies have to play 53 games in 51 days because of the one-week hiatus due to the Miami Marlins’ COVID-positive tests and multiple rain delays this week. After the rainout on Tuesday due to the tropical storm, the Phillies had a doubleheader on Wednesday, which meant they were going to have to call someone up on Sunday to give the rotation sufficient rest. After another rainout on Friday, there was even more of an excuse to call up Howard.
This will be the most highly anticipated debut for a Phillies pitcher since Aaron Nola was called up in 2015. Howard certainly doesn’t have as much experience in the minor leagues as most would like. Before COVID-19, the hope was that the second-round pick would pitch a little more in Double-A, and move quickly up to Triple-A, before getting a promotion to the big leagues later this year.
Howard was practicing with the big-league team in summer camp and has been with the alternate training site in Lehigh Valley, so it’s not like he isn’t prepared for his start on Sunday.
In July, Howard pitched against some of the Phillies’ starters and was a force to be reckoned with. It’s also worth noting that Nola pitched just six games in Triple-A before his promotion. He had more experience than Howard did at the higher end of the minor leagues; but, the shortened season gives the Phillies a chance to see what Howard is made of.