For Starters, Phillies Could “Piggyback” Howard and Velasquez
Sunday brought a good deal of excitement when top pitching prospect Spencer Howard was named the starter of game two of the doubleheader the Phillies played against the Atlanta Braves. Vince Velasquez pitched game one. While the Phillies offense stayed quiet and the Phillies failed to win Howard's debut, there were many good signs from his debut. So who, of the two starters, will make the next start?
The Phillies are non-committal, though they seem to suggest both should be ready to pitch on Friday when the spot in the rotation comes up.
The Phillies really do not need both though.
The next doubleheader is on August 20. But with an off days on August 17 and August 24, the Phillies are in no danger of needing a fifth starter soon.
- 10 - Nola
- 11 - Wheeler
- 12 - Arrieta
- 13 - Eflin
- 14 - Howard/Velasquez
- 15 - Nola
- 16 - Wheeler
- 17 - OFF
- 18 - Arrieta
- 19 - Eflin
- 20 - Howard/Velasquez
- 21 - Nola
- 22 - Wheeler
- 23 - Arrieta
- 24 - OFF
This pattern works for two more turns through the rotation.
That is, before things get interesting in September. From September 8 through September 13 - just 6 days - the Phillies play an absurd three doubleheaders. They will need Howard to start, Velasquez to start, AND find a way through another game.
But who knows: a million things could happen between now and then.
Vince Velasquez has pretty much shown who he is. He will go somewhere between four and five innings, throwing a lot of pitches. Howard remains in potential. The upside is much better than the usual routine in which Velasquez exits early and the middle bullpen blows up.
Should the Phillies piggyback, Howard should be the starter and be allowed to pitch to his fullest. Velasquez, who can give four innings a shot? If he does that after another starter who might not go deep at first, either. But there is one real concern: is Velasquez waiting for the fifth day to throw in relief helpful?
The roster is set at 28, and that gives the Phillies two extra pitchers. However, Velasquez is probably going to fare better than at least five of the Phillies current relievers. Why not use him more frequently?
We will see who pitches come Friday. Should Howard throw a dominant start? I think this will work itself out. If he struggles, maybe there is another outcome. But if Howard is going to need a "piggyback", maybe he is not ready.