A shortened MLB season could lead to Howard opening the year in the big-league rotation, Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Lauber speculates that the Phillies may cap Howard at around 130 innings this season, so while he would have been managed carefully in a full season, a shortened campaign could allow him to be treated like any other young starter. With neither Vince Velasquez nor Nick Pivetta seizing the fifth starter's spot this spring, the Phillies could turn to Howard, who might already be their third-best starter from a stuff standpoint. He was up to 98-99 mph with his fastball in his March 10 outing and all three offspeed pitches were working, according to Sam Dykstra of MiLB.com.

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