Joe Girardi did not officially name a second starting pitcher for Sunday’s doubleheader, but he left enough of a hint on Saturday afternoon to figure out who the Phillies will use.
“I have no official announcement, but you can expect a young righthander to start tomorrow,” Girardi said. “But I have no official announcement. I’ll just leave it at that. Whose initials are S.H. I didn’t say anything. Sam Huff, right?”
So Spencer Howard will start on Sunday as the team’s top prospect makes his much anticipated major-league debut against Atlanta. The 24-year-old was ranked last week by MLB.com as baseball’s 36th-best prospect. He has four major-league ready pitches and the talent to immediately help a team that is desperate for pitching.
But what about Alec Bohm, the third-base prospect who MLB.com ranked last week five spots ahead of Howard? When will his anticipated debut be?
“You would have to juggle some things,” Girardi said. “When Alec comes up, you want him to play almost every day. That’s the kind of thing that you have to think about. You don’t want him sitting five or six days a week. He has to play a lot. We’ll continue to look at that and make the decision when it’s the right time.”
Bohm is a natural third baseman, but the Phillies started playing him last season at first base to provide some flexibility for how he can get to the majors. He also could be used this season as a designated hitter.
Jean Segura, the team’s starting third baseman, entered Saturday with four hits in his first 22 at-bats. Rhys Hoskins, the team’s starting first baseman, entered Saturday with three hits in his first 22 at-bats. Scott Kingery, starting at second base, entered Saturday with two hits in his first 24 at-bats.
The Phillies do not seem to be in a rush to move any of those players out of the lineup. But if they did, it would create a spot for Bohm as Segura could move to second if Kingery was bumped. For now, Bohm waits at the team’s alternate training site in Allentown, the place Howard is leaving behind.
Bohm and Howard were not the only prospects the Phillies stashed in Allentown as they have a cast of young relievers who could help in 2020.
Connor Brogdon, Addison Russ, Damon Jones, and Connor Seabold are training in Lehigh Valley and could help the team’s shaky bullpen.
All four had big strikeout numbers last season in the minors, and Brogdon and Russ – both righthanders – have been relievers in the minor leagues. Jones, a lefthander, and the right-handed Seabold are starters. But a few weeks in the major-league bullpen would not disqualify them from returning to starting in 2021. All four have to be added this offseason to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. So adding them this summer could help inform the team’s offseason decisions.
“We get our daily reports, and Rafael Chaves isn’t just our minor-league pitching coordinator, he’s a good friend of mine. I’ve known him for years and years,” said pitching coach Bryan Price. “I get good regular reports from him, and we talk regularly. I get a lot of good feedback. We get our daily reports and get to see all the pitch characteristics, how much they threw, and they’re evaluated by the entire coaching staff on how they performed.”