The Phillies have not named their starting pitcher for Sunday’s game against Atlanta, but Joe Girardi said the team does know who will be pitching the third game of the four-game series.
“Stay tuned. There’s a guy that we could use in a lot of different roles,” the manager said with a grin. “I’m sure someone will share it with you later on.”
Is Spencer Howard — the team’s top pitching prospect — a guy the Phillies could use in a lot of different roles?
“He is a guy,” Girardi answered.
Girardi might not have been ready Thursday afternoon to announce Howard’s arrival, but all signs point to the 24-year-old making his major-league debut on Sunday.
Howard has been at the team’s alternate training site in Allentown since the season started, as the Phillies were able to delay his eventual free-agency by one year by keeping him off the major-league roster for the season’s first five days. Howard will now become a free agent after the 2026 season instead of 2025.
Those days have elapsed, and the Phillies need a starter Sunday, when they play their sixth game in a five-day span. It seems as though Howard will be the guy.
“I think there’s a number of different ways that we could use him, whether it’s starting or relieving,” Girardi said. “... We talked about both roles, and depending on when he gets here and how we do it, we’ll have to manage, because he’s not used to throwing out of the bullpen. I wouldn’t look to him throwing back-to-back days if we put him in the bullpen. I would look for him to be more a multiple-inning guy who could get us big outs.”
Howard, the team’s second-round pick in 2017, finished last season with double-A Reading and posted a 2.35 ERA in six regular-season starts, with 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings. MLB.com ranked Howard on Wednesday as baseball’s 37th-best prospect on its updated top-100 list. The Phillies also had third baseman Alec Bohm ranked 32nd, shortstop Bryson Stott ranked 98th, and right-hander Mick Abel — the team’s first-round pick in June — ranked 100th.
Howard throws four pitches — a high-90s fastball, change-up, slider, and curveball — and there’s little doubt that he’s ready for the majors despite never reaching triple A.
“He’s going to be good. He has good stuff,” third baseman Jean Segura said. “I faced him a couple times in summer camp. His fastball is electric, especially against righties. He kind of jumps at you. Best of luck to the guy and happy to have a guy like that.”
Girardi said that once Howard arrives, he’ll be given a permanent role. So, if Howard starts Sunday, it’s expected that he’s being added to the rotation and not being used as a spot starter. That’s assuming he’s the guy the Phillies “could use in a lot of different roles.”