Phillies get contributions from homegrown youngsters, maybe with more to come


While Bryce Harper stole the show in Wednesday’s walk-off win over the San Francisco Giants, the Phillies got some excellent contributions up and down the roster in the much-needed victory.

Andrew Knapp, who knocked in Harper with the game-winning run two innings after the slugger had tied the game with a two-out, solo homer in the seventh, hit it right on the sweet spot when he said, “That was pretty much the definition of a team win. Everybody had a part.”

It should be quite pleasing to a Phillies organization often criticized for not developing enough of its own talent – even owner John Middleton chimed in on the shortcoming last fall – that three young, homegrown players all made significant contributions to the win.

No one knows what kind of big-league careers Mickey Moniak, Nick Maton and Spencer Howard will have. They all began this season in the minor leagues and could end up back there in the coming weeks. Whether they become studs, duds or something in between, they will be the ones to write the stories of their careers with their performance and production.

But there's no doubting the contributions they made in Wednesday’s win.

Maton, called up on Monday and pressed into duty at shortstop because Didi Gregorius missed three games with a sore elbow, scored a run and set up another with one of his three hits.

Moniak, who has struggled while getting a look in centerfield, had one of his best at-bats in working a full count before lining a three-run homer into the left field seats to give Zach Eflin a nice lead in the second inning of a game the Phillies absolutely had to have after losing the first two of the series.

Howard, the organization’s much-ballyhooed top pitching prospect, turned in the most impressive appearance of the eight he’s made so far in the majors. In his second appearance this season, he faced four batters in a tight game and retired all of them. He struck out the side in the top of the eighth moments after Harper had tied the game at 5-5.

On his way up the minor-league ladder, Howard turned a lot of heads with his strikeout stuff and big fastball. He showed neither during six appearances in the majors last season. After a bout with shoulder stiffness last year and some back spasms this spring, he’s healthy. He’s refined his mechanics and he’s firing. He showed a slider and a changeup in his 1 1/3 scoreless inning Wednesday, but mostly relied on a well-located four-seam fastball that was consistently 96-97 mph and touched 98.

Howard, 24, is incredibly important to this club’s future because it must develop some difference-making homegrown starting pitching. He’s also important to the 2021 team because starting pitching depth is a major issue. Already, the Phils are about to use their sixth starter as Vince Velasquez will get the ball Friday night in Denver in place of Matt Moore, who landed in COVID protocol after three poor starts. Velasquez’ inconsistencies are well documented and there’s little confidence he can hold down a spot in the rotation. If he struggles Friday night and Moore is not ready to come back, Howard could find himself starting a game later in the road trip.

“Whatever they throw at me, I’m happy to do,” Howard said. “At this point, I want innings wherever they are. Starting or relief, I’m just looking for innings.”

The Phillies have said they will limit Howard’s innings this season. He’s only reached 100 innings once in his pro career. It will be a balancing act between the present and the future for management, but through it all, Howard needs to build a sufficient workload this season if he’s going to make the next step toward becoming a regular, contributing starter next season.

Moniak, 22, had struck out eight times and had just one hit in his first 15 at-bats before hitting his first big-league homer Wednesday. He needed a game like that because Odubel Herrera is waiting at the alternate site and could get the call if someone doesn’t lock down the center field job. By the way, Moniak’s homer represented the first RBIs of the season by a Phillies’ center fielder.

A young family in the left field seats retrieved Moniak’s home run ball and gave it to him, but not after their toddler used it for a teething ring.

“They had two little kids and one tried to eat it,” the good-natured Moniak said. “I’m just glad it’s intact. I’m very grateful they gave it back.”

Does it have teeth marks in it?

“There could be,” he said. “I honestly hope so.”

Maton, 24, comes out of the same southern Illinois high school as Jayson Werth. Though the two have never met, Werth congratulated Maton on his promotion through a text to Harper on Monday.

Maton does not look intimidated or awed by being in the big leagues at all. His older brother, Phil, pitches for Cleveland. Nick Maton is a lefty hitter and he takes a rip at the ball with a quick stroke. He had five hits in the three games against the Giants and played well in the field. With Gregorius due back Friday night and Jean Segura on the injured list, Maton could see time at second base during this weekend’s series in Denver.

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