By Connor Thomas
This past Friday, I made the argument that Spencer Howard should absolutely be called up to the Phillies’ Major League roster. Loyal readers of 975thefanatic.com in the front office kindly obliged and called Howard up just a day later, to make a Saturday spot start against the Boston Red Sox. What I didn’t know when I begged for Howard’s call up was that apparently they don’t have treadmills or cardio training in AAA. The young hurler wasn’t asked for much, and was relieved after just 3 innings of work, but according to his postgame comments, it seems like that might have been too much exertion for Howard. After cruising through the first 2 innings, his 3rd inning was a blow up of sorts, with 3 walks surrendered and 2 runs allowed to Boston. It was very uncharacteristic of a pitcher who in a limited sample size has been very controlled on the mound, but it was something that occurred at the plate that actually affected his performance.
During his postgame media availability, Howard attributed his drop in velocity and lack of control in the 3rd inning to not giving himself enough time to get his heart rate down after running to 1st base on a groundout in the top of the 3rd. The play in question was a ground out to THE PITCHER. It’s totally reasonable that a 24 year old professional athlete would be out of breath for 30 minutes following a 30 yard jog, right? This is a completely absurd claim by Howard as to why he struggled with velocity just 30 pitches into his first Major League start this year. Sure, it was a rough 3rd inning, but it ended with the Phillies only down 2-0. Not ideal, but not exactly blowing a game for your team if you’re Howard.
And this is not me saying the kid isn’t ready for this level, he absolutely is good enough to be in this Phillies rotation considering the ability of the back end so far this year. But maybe don’t come out and tell on yourself that every time you take the 90 foot jog to first base we can expect a rough inning from you. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence from the fan base. It also doesn’t help the “pitchers are athletes” argument, or the more prevalent “baseball players aren’t in actual shape” debate. I do firmly believe that Spencer Howard will be an asset on this roster when this season is over. He showed good stuff in the first 3 innings on Saturday despite the short start and 3rd inning issues. But spend some time running some poles in between starts Spence, because there’s no DH coming to save you. The Phillies will need you to be able to both pitch and occasionally jog across the field this year.