Spencer Howard received a phone call Friday morning from his parents, who wanted to see how their son was holding up at summer camp as he received a taste of major-league life in Philadelphia.
“They asked about how I was feeling and stuff,” Howard said. “Then my dad mentioned it.”
“It” was what Bryce Harper said about Howard on Thursday night while he streamed himself playing the video game Fortnite. How the Phillies plan to use Howard -- their top pitching prospect -- has been one of the top storylines of camp. And now the team’s $330 million superstar was weighing in.
“If Spencer Howard isn’t starting in our rotation by Game 6 in New York against the New York Yankees, then there’s a problem. That’s all I’m saying,” Harper said on Twitch. “I think it’s five days and you get an extra year out of him. So he would be my No. 6 starter at Yankee Stadium.”
The Phillies can gain an extra year of club control over Howard by keeping him in Allentown -- their alternate training site -- for the first five days of the season. If he joins the team on the sixth day, he can become a free agent after the 2026 season instead of 2025. And five games is as long as Harper is willing to wait.
“It’s cool, man,” Howard said of Harper’s comments. “Obviously, he’s been one of the faces of baseball forever, it seems like. And for him to be a Philadelphia Phillie for 13 years or however long, I think he’s definitely looking out for younger guys coming up in the system, and he’s trying to integrate them into the whole Phillies organization. So I think it’s really cool.”
It is hard to argue that any other voice in the clubhouse carries more weight than Harper, who is the highest-paid player in franchise history and pledged to be in Philadelphia until 2032. His words were heard.
The Phillies, if they keep Howard off the opening-day roster, will stash him at Allentown’s Coca-Cola Park, which is where everyone from the 60-player pool will train if they are not on the major-league roster. There already seemed to be pressure mounting from fans to place Howard and Alec Bohm -- their strong-hitting third-base prospect -- on the major-league roster when the season begins July 24. But that seems unlikely. Thanks to Harper, there’s now pressure on the Phillies to bring Howard up five days later.
“You get that feeling that he knows he’s going to be here for a while, and he knows how important it is for the guys – not just me and Spencer – but everybody coming up through the organization,” Bohm said. “For us to have success within the organization, we’re not just going out and spending money on guys. He’s been really welcoming and lending a helping hand whenever he can. He’s welcomed us just as everybody else has.”