SEPTEMBER 13: The Phillies are placing Howard on the 10-day injured list, the club announced. Reliever Connor Brogdon is up from the alternate site to replace Howard on the active roster. Additionally, right-hander Ramón Rosso has been added to the roster as the 29th man for today’s doubleheader against the Marlins. He’ll get the start in the first game of the twin bill.
SEPTEMBER 12: Phillies right-hander Spencer Howard left tonight’s game in the fourth inning due to stiffness in his throwing shoulder, the team announced. Howard had just allowed a three-run homer to the Marlins’ Brian Anderson before being visited on the mound by manager Joe Girardi and a team trainer before departing the game.
Any sort of arm problem for a pitcher obviously isn’t good news, and a shoulder issue is of particular concern in Howard’s case — as The Athletic’s Meghan Montemurro pointed out, a similar injury caused Howard to miss two months of the 2019 season. If the problem here is truly just stiffness or discomfort, it’s possible Howard could be back after just a missed start or perhaps an extra day or two of rest, but naturally the Phillies will be as cautious as possible in making sure the star prospect is healthy.
Saturday’s abbreviated outing has been indicative of Howard’s struggles over his first taste of the majors, as the righty took a 5.66 ERA into tonight’s start against Miami. Howard had a 2.25 K/BB rate and 7.8 K/9 over his first 20 2/3 innings, with his BABIP (.343) and xwOBA (.334, compared to a .380 wOBA) indicating at least some bad luck. Anderson’s home run tonight, however, was already the sixth long ball surrendered by Howard this season, and he has been hit hard in his second or third times through opposing lineups.
Howard’s prospect pedigree notwithstanding, it isn’t unexpected that a 24-year-old rookie who had never pitched above Double-A ball would have some struggles in his first MLB season. If Howard has to miss time, however, it leaves the Phillies short an arm in the midst of a stretch of 18 games in 14 days. Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler have been carrying an otherwise shaky Philadelphia rotation, though Wheeler may be questionable to make his next start due to a nasty fingernail injury.