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Notes: Howard on fast track; Pivetta spotless

@ToddZolecki
July 16, 2020

PHILADELPHIA -- Spencer Howard on Thursday showed why he should pitch for the Phillies this season. He tossed three scoreless innings in a scrimmage at Citizens Bank Park. He allowed one hit and two walks. He struck out three. He tired toward the end, but it is easy to see

PHILADELPHIA -- Spencer Howard on Thursday showed why he should pitch for the Phillies this season.

He tossed three scoreless innings in a scrimmage at Citizens Bank Park. He allowed one hit and two walks. He struck out three. He tired toward the end, but it is easy to see why he is the Phillies’ No. 2 prospect and No. 34 overall, per MLB Pipeline. Howard’s fastball sits comfortably in the mid-90s, although it reached 99 mph in the Arizona Fall League. His curveball, slider and changeup can be dominant pitches.

“I think we saw some electric stuff the first couple innings,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said.

Howard, however, is unlikely to make the Opening Day roster. The Phillies will provide an opportunity in the rotation first to Vince Velasquez or Nick Pivetta. They could provide opportunities to both, if Zach Eflin is not ready to go. Eflin missed time last week because of back spasms. He is scheduled to pitch a two-inning simulated game Saturday, which could go a long way in the composition of the rotation the first week of the season.

“After that I think we have to start thinking about what we’re going to do,” Girardi said.

But the Phillies also gain an extra year of control if Howard is not on the roster the first five days of the season. It is an important service-time consideration. In fact, it is the difference between becoming a free agent after 2025 or 2026.

If Howard does not join the rotation at some point this season, he will pitch out of the bullpen. Girardi has said several times that they will need pitchers in the bullpen that can toss multiple innings, especially early. But Howard is good enough to pitch regardless.

“I think it’s important that he gets innings somewhere,” Girardi said. “This kid needs to pitch.”

“If this kid is the guy we think he is -- and we do -- then he’s going to have a really nice future in Philadelphia,” pitching coach Bryan Price said this week. “But at some point in time, he’s going to have to develop a workload. Workload is important. If he doesn't make the team out of Summer Camp, then he’ll be getting workload in Lehigh Valley. I would really hope and expect to see him pitching here, if not on Opening Day, then in some point in time because he really needs the work and I think he’s ready to compete at this level.”

Pivetta steps up in No. 5 fight
Pivetta made the battle to be the Phillies’ No. 5 starter a little more interesting. He pitched four hitless and scoreless innings.

“I thought Nick was really good,” Girardi said. “I thought that Nick used his offspeed extremely well. I thought he had command of his fastball pretty good on the third-base side. I thought he mixed his pitches pretty well and that’s what he’s capable of doing.”

Right-hander Jake Arrieta also pitched. He struck out five in four innings.

“I thought he threw the ball well,” Girardi said.

Quinn ready to run
It’s easy to imagine Roman Quinn winning a few games for the Phillies this season.

Major League Baseball instituted a new rule for extra-inning games. Each half-inning will start with an automatic runner on second base to limit the strain on pitching staffs in a 60-game season. The runner to be placed on second base each half-inning will be the player in the batting order immediately preceding that half-inning’s leadoff hitter. It can also be a substitute, which is where Quinn could come in.

“I experienced some of that when I was in Triple-A,” Quinn said. “I liked it. It sped the games up. I thought it was pretty cool. I’m looking forward to it.”

Another rule that could benefit Quinn is the designated hitter in the National League. Not because Quinn will DH, but because if the Phillies DH Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen or Jay Bruce (each is a possibility) it could allow Quinn to stay in center field or move to the corners.

“I do think that helps me,” Quinn said. “Say Cutch needs a day, I can play left. I think I can definitely get more opportunities to play.”

Extra bases
• Scott Kingery played six innings at second base. It was his first action in the field since returning from COVID-19. Kingery is going to DH on Friday, then play second base over the weekend.

• The Washington Post reported that the Nationals are uncertain if they will start the season at Nationals Park because of the city’s COVID-19 regulations. The Phillies are scheduled to play an exhibition in Washington on Saturday. Girardi said they still plan to go. If for some reason they cannot play at Nationals Park, the Phillies will have another scrimmage at Citizens Bank Park.

• The Phillies released right-hander Bud Norris, who was a non-roster invitee.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .