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By Ryan Schwager

 

The 24-year old right-hander exited after 3 innings of work, allowing no runs, just one hit and one walk while striking out two Yankees. He handed over the ball to a Phillies bullpen with the fourth-highest ERA in the National League.

The Phillies assigned Howard a spot start Wednesday night in the Bronx. Manager Joe Girardi decided to go with Howard over Matt Moore in what he was prefacing as a “bullpen game.” And though it may be questioned why Howard can’t go deep into games, maybe the Phillies are handling him the right way.

Going into Wednesday’s start, in all of Major League Baseball, Howard boasted the lowest slugging percentage against when facing opponents the first time through the batting order at .128. However, the second time through the order, Howard struggles mightily. He was sitting at second-highest in the league with opponents slugging .824. Matt Moore is third-highest at .750.

Since Sixto Sanchez was traded for JT Realmuto in 2019, Howard has been considered the Phillies next big arm prospect. But at 24, he has failed to take the big leap to becoming a solid MLB pitcher. This may be what Spencer Howard is – a guy who can’t go deep into games, and the Phillies should embrace that.

The Tampa Bay Rays introduced the opener to Major League Baseball and were able to use it to bolster themselves to an American League pennant in 2020. The Phillies should take notes. Howard would be absolutely perfect for an opener role, and his efficiency in short bursts might offer more than five mediocre innings Philadelphia’s other starters such as Matt Moore, Vince Velasquez and Chase Anderson.

Howard has only made 12 career MLB starts, but the Phillies seem to have an idea of what he will be for them for years to come. Can he prove to Philadelphia that he can be a full-time, long-lasting starter?