Howard (finger), Josh Gessner and Kevin Gowdy were traded from the Phillies to the Rangers in exchange for Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy on Friday, Jeff Passan of ESPN.com reports. Howard has been a dominant pitcher in the minors, posting a 1.85 ERA and a 34.7 percent strikeout rate in 30 starts across the last four years. He hasn't come close to replicating that thus far in the majors, with his strikeout rate dropping to 22.5 percent and his ERA spiking to 5.81, though that comes in a small sample of just 52.2 innings.
Howard was removed in the fourth inning of Monday's game against the Nationals due to an apparent blister issue, Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. He allowed three runs on six hits and struck out two over 3.2 innings prior to his departure. Howard's velocity noticeably decreased in the fourth inning and he allowed all three of his runs in the frame prior to leaving with the team trainer. He'll be considered day-to-day until further notice.
Howard will remain in the rotation to start Monday against the Nationals, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports. Howard has spent time in the rotation, bullpen and minors this season but is needed as a starter for now with Zach Eflin (knee) on the injured list. Eflin's injury isn't considered a long-term concern, but another strong showing from Howard could in theory give him the chance to stick around in favor of Vince Velasquez (5.00 ERA) or Matt Moore (5.79 ERA). The Phillies may not consider the young righty to be stretched out enough to stick as a starter, however, as he's only reached five innings once at any level this season and threw just three innings in his most recent start Wednesday against the Yankees.
Howard allowed one hit and one walk while striking out two across three scoreless innings Wednesday against the Yankees. He did not factor into the decision. Howard was slated to serve as an opener, and he worked efficiently to record 12 outs on only 42 pitches. He entered the game with a 5.82 ERA and 1.57 WHIP with 16 walks across 21.1 innings in the major leagues. Given those struggles, this was an encouraging outing for Howard and marked his longest scoreless effort of the campaign. Because Zach Eflin (kneed) is currently on the injured list, Howard could have a chance to take at least one more turn through the rotation.
Howard will start Wednesday against the Yankees in what's expected to be a bullpen game for the Phillies, Matt Gelb of The Athletic reports. Howard, who was recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley earlier in the day, will be pitching on three days' rest after he covered three innings in his most recent start in the minors. Since he only tossed 51 pitches in that outing, Howard should be able to give the Phillies three or four innings if he's efficient Wednesday, but he'll still face an uphill battle to qualify for a win. Cristopher Sanchez is a candidate to cover multiple innings after Howard exits.
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