The Phillies have officially called up right-hander Spencer Howard to start tonight’s game against the Red Sox. A roster spot was created when left-hander Matt Moore was placed on the 10-day IL due to a back injury, according to Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). According to the Phillies, Moore is suffering from back spasms, and his placement is retroactive to May 21.
Howard began the season in Philadelphia’s bullpen, as the team intended to deploy him as a reliever in order to better manage his innings. However, since Moore and Chase Anderson both struggled as the team’s fourth and fifth starters, the decision was made to stretch Howard out back into a starting role.
Manager Joe Girardi told reporters (including NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury) yesterday that Howard would be limited to roughly 55-60 pitches today. It remains to be seen how long Howard’s stint in the rotation will last, or whether or not the Phillies will eventually use him as something of a “normal” starter, or whether they’ll continue to use him in these rather limited starts to get as much game action out of the young righty as possible.
Vince Velasquez’s health status will certainly be a factor, as Velasquez was a late scratch from his most recent start due to a finger numbness issue that has bothered him in the past. Beyond the impressive top trio of Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, and Zack Wheeler, Velasquez had been giving the Phillies some quality work as the fourth starter, so if he is able to stay healthy and Howard is able to pitch up to expectations, the Phils might suddenly have one of the more solid rotations in the game. Of course, there isn’t much depth beyond those options, given how Anderson has been relegated to bullpen work and Moore will be out of action for at least the next 10 days.
Howard has a 6.28 ERA over 28 2/3 innings in his brief MLB career thus far, though the 2017 second-rounder is considered to be one of baseball’s better pitching prospects. Injuries have slowed Howard’s progress (hence the innings limit), though he has performed well when healthy in the minor leagues. Getting his first taste of Triple-A this year, Howard has allowed only a single run over nine innings, though he has issued five walks.