Will Phils promote Howard? Door is open

August 4th, 2020

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies’ latest postponement might have a silver lining. It could push them into promoting their top pitching prospect before the end of the weekend.

Phillies manager Joe Girardi acknowledged after Monday night’s 6-3 loss to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium that is under consideration to join the rotation following Tuesday’s postponement between the Phillies and Yankees because of Hurricane Isaias. The two teams will play a doubleheader Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park, opening the door for Howard to pitch no later than Sunday.

Girardi said and are scheduled to pitch the doubleheader, which will be the first seven-inning doubleheader in franchise history.

“Obviously, it’s something we’re going to have to talk about,” Girardi said about Howard. “Someone is going to have to fit in somewhere. I think our plans right now are to go Nola and Wheeler, and then we’ll handle it when we have to. So we’ll see where we are at, but our plan right now is Nola and Wheeler. At some point, we’re going to need someone, and if my days are right, I think it will be Sunday.”

If Nola and Wheeler pitch Wednesday, the Phillies could have pitch Thursday, pitch Friday and pitch Saturday.

In that scenario, the Phillies will need somebody outside the five-man rotation to pitch Sunday. The Phillies have other internal options, like Nick Pivetta. He competed for a rotation job in Summer Camp before starting the season in the bullpen.

But Howard is the No. 34 prospect in baseball and No. 2 in the Phillies’ system, according to MLB Pipeline. The Phillies carry 16 pitchers on the 30-man roster, but there is little argument that Howard is not already one of the organization’s best 16. Bryce Harper said last month that if Howard isn’t with the Phillies by the sixth game of the season, “there’s a problem.”

Howard opened the season in Allentown, Pa., as part of the team’s 60-man player pool because of service time considerations.

Those service time considerations, however, no longer apply.

By keeping Howard off the 30-man roster the first five days of the season, the Phillies guaranteed an extra year of team control. If they call up Howard on Wednesday or Sunday (or any other day this season), he cannot become a free agent until after 2026.

Howard pitched Friday in Allentown, so technically he could pitch as early as Wednesday.

“Our discussions have been more about how he’s doing opposed to an exact date, if we’re going to call him up,” Girardi said before Tuesday’s game got postponed. “He made a start there and threw the ball pretty well, which is obviously encouraging. But as far as a date of calling him up, we have not come to a conclusion on that.”