The Phillies have rotation concerns with 17 games to play.
Howard had felt tightness in the shoulder the past couple days, then had difficulty getting loose every inning against Miami. Phillies manager Joe Girardi said Howard tested well afterward with the athletic training staff, although there was no diagnostic testing. Howard will be evaluated again Sunday.
Howard missed two months last season in the Minor Leagues because of fatigue in the shoulder.
“It’s not as severe as that, but it’s a comparable sensation,” Howard said. “Last year, it was pretty sharp and aggressive when I did throw, and this just felt like a little rusty, a little slow to warm up. So I’m not necessarily concerned about it.”
Howard hopes to make his next start in the coming week, but he said “it’s probably too early to say. But that’s the goal, so that’s what I’m shooting for.”
Phillies right-hander Zack Wheeler will not start Monday’s series finale against the Marlins. The club hopes he can pitch later in the week against the Mets. Wheeler nearly lost the nail on his right middle finger in a freak incident while getting dressed on Wednesday. Wheeler made about 60 throws from around 90 feet before Saturday’s game. Girardi said it went pretty well.
“But we were committed to not starting him on Monday right now because our fear is if he loses the nail, it could be the rest of the season,” Girardi said. “If that nail comes off, he’s done for the year. We just said, ‘We’re not taking a chance.’ There’s healing that’s taking place. The maximum that he can get is three more starts anyway, so let’s be smart about it and give it as much time to heal as possible so when you do come back you feel normal.”
The Phillies’ rotation has been a strength this season, but now?
“There is concern because we still have doubleheaders,” Girardi said, referring to twin bills Sunday, Friday and Sept. 22. “There’s concern. We’re going to have to figure it out, that’s all. Guys are going to have to step up.”
Realmuto leaves with hip discomfort
Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto left the game in the ninth inning because of hip discomfort.
Girardi said Realmuto felt something running to first base on a groundout in the eighth inning. He talked afterward in the dugout to an athletic trainer, but Realmuto caught the bottom of the eighth. Andrew Knapp pinch-hit for him in the ninth.
“We’ll evaluate him tomorrow and see where he’s at,” Girardi said.
If Realmuto cannot play in Sunday’s doubleheader, the Phillies will have to figure out something behind the dish, unless they plan to have Knapp catch 14 innings. No. 8 prospect Rafael Marchan might be third on the depth chart because of his defensive prowess. He impressed Girardi in Spring Training, which is partially why the Phillies felt comfortable designating Deivy Grullón for assignment late last month. The Red Sox claimed him off waivers.