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Phillie’s best prospect Spencer Howard will compete for rotation spot

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The Phillies made some late reinforcement of their starting pitching rotation when they signed Matt Moore, Chase Anderson and Ivan Nova in recent weeks. Moore and Anderson have major contracts, suggesting team officials believe they will be part of a season-opening staff that already includes Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin in the top three.

So, what does that mean for Spencer Howard, the team’s top pitching prospect?

“He will compete for a spot on the rotation,” said manager Joe Girardi after his team’s first practice session on Spring Wednesday.

Howard, 24, made a disappointing debut in the majors last year during the pandemic-shortened 60-game season. In six starts, he threw 24innings, gave up 30 hits, including six home runs and 16 earned runs for a 5.92 ERA. He hit 23, walked 10, struggled to maintain the fastball speed that was his calling card with the minors, and was on the injured list for some time for the second year in a row with a constricting shoulder.

Howard is now healthy.

“He’s in the competition, so we have to try and get him ready to see where he stands,” said Girardi.

Howard has only hit 100 innings once in his professional career, so the Phillies will remain cautious as they build up his workload. Likewise, they will be careful with the rest of their starters as they move from an unusual two-month season to a normal six-month season this year. This could lead to the use of an incidental sixth man in the starting staff this season. Baseball Operations President Dave Dombrowski recently suggested this.

By hiring Howard a sixth man every now and then, he would protect him as well as the rest of the rotation in terms of workload.

That’s just one possible scenario. Nova doesn’t just sit in camp as a hood decoration, and Vince Velasquez makes $ 4 million. As a starter, Velasquez gets a look at the camp but can end up in the bullpen or be traded. The thing is, Howard hasn’t guaranteed a spot on the season opening rotation or even on the season opening roster. He could be sent to the minors, get some work and be available if necessary. Teams can never have enough starting pitching.

This is all set in the next six weeks in Clearwater.

But for now, Howard is at work and can map out part of his own course by how he pitch.

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