Howard (knee) completed his first bullpen session of spring training Wednesday, Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic reports. Howard is a little behind the Phillies' other rotation candidates after tweaking his right knee last week, but his ability to quickly get back on the mound suggests the injury isn't anything worrisome. The Phillies likely won't iron out a date for Howard's Grapefruit League debut until he completes a simulated game or tosses a live batting practice session, either of which should happen within the next week. Rather than the knee issue, Howard's lack of a 40-man roster spot and his limited experience above the lower levels of the minors seemingly represent bigger obstacles to him making the Phillies' Opening Day rotation.
Howard's start to spring has been delayed after the righty tweaked his right knee, Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Manager Joe Girardi downplayed the issue, saying that the Phillies were merely being extra cautious with the 23-year-old, something they can afford to be this early in camp. Howard has only made six starts above Low-A, but he'll have a shot to make a big-league impact this season for a Philadelphia team whose rotation looks like one of the biggest obstacles in its quest to end an eight-year playoff drought. Given his lack of experience in the upper minors, however, he's unlikely to be a member of the Opening Day roster regardless regardless of how minor his knee issue is.
Howard was invited to the Phillies' major-league spring training Monday. Howard battled shoulder soreness last season, but he managed to progress to the Double-A level and record a 2.35 ERA with a 0.96 WHIP over 30.2 innings with Double-A Reading. While he's unlikely to open the season on the major-league roster, he'll get the chance to work with the big-league coaching staff and will likely make his debut in the majors sometime in 2020 if he continues to progress.
Howard struck out two and walked six in 4.2 innings in the Arizona Fall League on Thursday. Howard's fastball reached 98 mph and was grouped with an excellent curveball and slider, Josh Norris of Baseball America reports. The 23-year-old battled shoulder issues this season but was excellent when available, recording a 2.03 ERA in 15 starts while striking out 34.8 percent of opposing batters and walking just 5.9 percent. Six of those starts came at the Double-A level, leaving him positioned to make his big-league debut at some point next season if his progress continues.
Howard has been promoted to Double-A Reading and will pitch Friday, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports. He made seven starts for High-A Clearwater, recording an impressive 1.29 ERA, 0.69 WHIP and 48:5 K:BB in 35 innings. The 22-year-old is one of the Phillies' top prospects and has made a full recovery from a shoulder injury back in mid-May.
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