A few hours after Phillies top prospect Spencer Howard showed off his arsenal pitching three innings in an intrasquad game Thursday night, Bryce Harper gave him a ringing endorsement.
"If Spencer Howard isn't starting in our rotation by Game 6 in New York against the Yankees, there's a problem. That's all I'm saying," Harper said while streaming Fortnite on Twitch.
Howard struck out three in three innings Thursday and had his fastball, curveball and changeup all working and causing ugly swings. Here were a few.
The reason Harper specified "Game 6" is that he recognizes the service time consideration with Howard.
Jim Salisbury explained it well here:
"The whole service-time, extra-year-of-control matter still exists. That's why the Phillies might decide against putting Howard on the active, 30-man roster when the season opens a week from Friday night. The team could hold Howard back six days before adding him to the roster and therefore preserve the extra year of control. In those six days, Howard would probably pitch once and with early-season innings limits on all pitchers, he'd probably max out at about 65 pitches or four innings in that outing. Trading a year of control for four innings — even in a short season when every game is magnified — makes little sense. So, it won't be surprising if Howard continues to build innings with the satellite club in Lehigh Valley for at least a week or so when the Phillies start the season.
"That's not a popular practice with players — and it might be addressed by the union in negotiations for the next Collective Bargaining Agreement — but it makes sense from a front-office perspective."
The Phillies' rotation could change several times in the early part of the season. Zach Eflin may end up joining the staff a few games in, Zack Wheeler will miss time early after the birth of his first child, and Howard could quickly become one of the Phillies' five starters.
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