In order to push up Aaron Nola’s next start to Sunday against the New York Yankees on a typical four-day rest period, Phillies manager Joe Girardi had to push back rookie Spencer Howard’s next start to Monday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Girardi is hoping that regular rest helps Nola recapture the form that made him the team’s best starting pitcher in every season since 2017. The manager is also hoping that extra time between starts helps Howard figure out why he was able to start so well but then run out of gas so fast in his first three starts this season.
An unintended consequence: Howard gets to pitch in the ballpark he frequented quite often as a kid.
“My dad [Kevin] grew up around L.A., so that was the team we watched growing up,” Howard said. “We made it to decent amount of games, so it will be cool to pitch there.”
One of Howard’s favorite Dodger Stadium memories involves another Howard who is familiar to Phillies fans.
“One time we went there and they were playing the Phillies and I had just got a new camera and I was filming one random at-bat from our seats way up in the stands,” Howard said. “It was Ryan Howard batting and on the one pitch I was filming he hit a home run. I’m sure that is still in my camera somewhere.”
Howard said he does not think he’ll be too nervous in his first game at Dodger Stadium because he got to spend some time on the field as a kid.
“When I was really little, my dad somehow got on-field access and so we went out and took ground balls on the field and then we went through the clubhouse and sat in the dugout,” Howard said. “I think I was in sixth or seventh grade.”
He grew up idolizing Dodgers closer Eric Gagne, who registered a National League record 55 saves in 2003.
“Lights out,” Howard said.
In Howard’s teenage years, Clayton Kershaw became his favorite player. Kershaw, of course, remains with the Dodgers, but he will not pitch until Wednesday night’s series finale against the Phillies.
By getting eight days between starts, Howard was able to throw two bullpen sessions with pitching coach Caleb Cotham watching instead of one. In his first three starts, Howard has come out of the gate strong, but both his velocity and command have suffered after the second inning.
“I’m stoked to get back out there,” Howard said. “Caleb and I have been working on some stuff just mechanically and that has been feeling a lot more comfortable and it just easier in general now, so it will be fun to get back out there and pitch.”
Howard believes the extra work helped him.
“Usually you just want to get back on the mound, but all things considered I think it was beneficial to have the extra side day,” Howard said. “I just want to feel good on the mound and everything else will take care of itself.”
The Phillies made a series of moves before Saturday’s game, including reinstating outfielder Adam Haseley from the restricted list. They then optioned him to triple-A Lehigh Valley. Haseley had left the team April 14 for personal reasons and was already playing for the IronPigs. The Phillies also optioned catcher Rafael Marchan to the IronPigs and recalled pitcher Enyel De Los Santos. ... Nola (4-4, 4.06 ERA) will be opposed by the Yankees’ Domingo German (4-3, 3.12) Sunday at 1:05 p.m.