Texas Rangers – Spencer Howard
The Phillies are scheduled to host the Texas Rangers on May 3 and 4, before visiting the team on June 21 and 22. They could reunite with one of the central pieces of their most recent deadline deal, right-handed starting pitcher Spencer Howard.
Howard was drafted by the Phillies in the second round of the 2017 MLB Draft. He was ranked as the team’s fifth-best prospect by MLB.com for 2019, where he had a 2.03 ERA in 15 starts between High-A, Double-A, and rookie ball while recording 94 strikeouts in his 71 innings.
Howard was ranked as the Phillies’ top prospect in 2020 when the minor league season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. With no experience higher than Double-A, he made his major league debut in the second game of a doubleheader, giving up four runs in 4 2/3 innings. He had a 5.92 ERA in six starts overall in 2020.
The right-hander began 2021 in and out of the major leagues, where he made seven starts and four relief appearances through the first half of the season. He had an 0-2 record, 5.72 ERA, and 1.482 WHIP with the Phillies, before being traded to the Rangers at the July 30 deadline.
Howard’s biggest issue as a Phillies starter last season was his durability. He would start out strong before fading, with opponents hitting .107/.206/.125 against him in the first time through the order, compared to .458/.576/.958 in the next time through. Sixteen of his 20 strikeouts came in the first time through the order.
The main pieces who the Phillies received for Howard were starter Kyle Gibson and reliever Ian Kennedy. Gibson had a 4.59 ERA and 1.222 WHIP in 11 starts with the Phillies (he gave up six runs in 4 1/3 innings during a game where he was the primary pitcher in relief), though most of his struggles were in September, after giving up seven runs in 32 2/3 innings during his August starts.
Howard had a 9.70 ERA and 1.781 WHIP in eight starts for the Rangers. Gibson remains under contract with the Phillies for this year, so both pitchers could end up facing their former teams this season.