Howard's fastball velocity diminished with each inning of Monday's win against the Nationals, yet he has not complained of physical issues, according to manager Joe Girardi, Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. "We're kind of digging into that to find out because it's not something that he's experienced in the past," Girardi said Tuesday. "We're trying to figure it out."
The Phillies' top pitching prospect averaged 95.3 mph and touched 96.5 mph with his heater when he struck out the side in the first inning, but his average fastball velocity dipped to 94.6 mph in the second inning, 93.7 in the third, 92.2 in the fourth and 91.9 in the fifth. He didn't reach 95 mph with a fastball after the second inning. Howard's secondary pitches are good enough for him to have success while leaning on them, but his mid-90s fastball is still a critical part of his frontline starter ceiling. Girardi said the team is looking at everything from diet, conditioning and the shorter spring training 2.0. Injury is often the root cause of a pitcher's velocity declining, so if this issue persists in his start Saturday against the Mets, Howard could be sent for some tests.