The Phillies called two pitchers from double A to Citizens Bank Park on Monday afternoon, but neither of them was pitching prospect Spencer Howard.
There do not seem to be any immediate plans to bring the prospect to the majors, even though the Phillies are desperate for pitching help and manager Gabe Kapler remains bullish on the team’s postseason chances.
Howard, 23, had a 2.35 ERA in six regular-season starts with double-A Reading before he struck out 12 in seven innings last week in a playoff game. Reading was eliminated from the Eastern League playoffs Friday night and two of Howard’s teammates -- Aaron Brown and Jeff Singer -- threw left-handed batting practice to the major-leaguers Monday afternoon.
Howard’s next assignment will be to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, which will begin Sept. 18. Kapler watched Howard’s playoff start and was impressed. But it does not seem the manager will be plugging Howard into his rotation for the final weeks of the season.
“Obviously, Matt is in close communication with our player development department and I know those conversations are consistently being had,” Kapler said of general manager Matt Klentak. “I’m not sure if Spencer would be considered an option for us in 2019 at the major-league level. He’s certainly an intriguing, talented pitcher. I’m not sure.”
The Phillies are concerned with Howard’s limited exposure to major-league baseballs, which are wound tighter and have lower seams than the balls used in double A. They are also surely looking ahead to Howard’s years of club control, as they would rather wait until next season to promote him than use a year of control by having him spend September in the majors.
But it may have been beneficial for Howard -- who projects to be a key piece of the team’s future -- to get a taste of a playoff race. The Phillies, Kapler said, “know we’re being counted out,” but “we don’t believe it.”
Some pitching could help their case. But it seems they’ll have to wait until 2020 for Howard, unless the Phillies need some right-handed batting-practice help.
Time seems to be running out for Seranthony Dominguez.
The Phillies remain hopeful that the reliever could help their tattered bullpen in the final stretch of the season, but Dominquez is still able just to play catch as he recovers from an arm injury. The right-hander played catch this weekend while the team was in New York.
“He’s progressing well,” Kapler said. “But I don’t see anything happening here any time soon.”
The Phillies have just 19 games remaining. Dominguez is one of the team’s eight relievers -- a complete bullpen unit -- on the injured list. Five of those pitchers -- Tommy Hunter, David Robertson, Victor Arano, Pat Neshek, and Adam Morgan -- have already been ruled out for the season.
Dominquez thought he would require Tommy John surgery to repair his right ulnar collateral ligament, but Kapler said the team’s medical staff and Dominguez believed the best course of action was to rest and rehab.
“I hold out a lot of hope that he could help us,” Kapler said.