Phillies Mailbag: Howard as Starter, Weak Arms, is Feliz Relief
We are back once again with the 97.3 ESPN Phillies Mailbag. Each week we take your questions and answer them on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill. Tune in each Tuesday at 2:40 p.m. to hear your questions answered.
How do you think the #Phillies address Howard’s spot in the rotation? Do they go back into the minors to find someone or maybe acquire somebody in a trade?
The Phillies gave Spencer Howard the ball to start on Monday night, aware of his shortcomings so far. As his starts progress, his fastball loses its life. Then it gets hit. The same happened on Monday night, even though there appeared to be some progress.
Howard seemed to lose it in the fourth inning, when he allowed a two-run home run to Will Smith. He got through the fourth, but when Chris Taylor led off the fifth with a home run, it was clear that Howard was done.
The Phillies were concerned enough about Howard's length that they promoted Bailey Falter from Triple-A to "piggyback" Howard. Falter impressed, giving the Phillies three scoreless innings. But having two players taking up two roster spots to do one job is not a sustainable way of doing things.
The initial piggyback, Ranger Suarez, appears to have been promoted to a higher-leverage spot in the bullpen.
Howard seemed to keep it together until the fourth inning, at least. That is some improvement, but the Phillies will need him to show he can go deeper. If not, there must be some real discussion about what his long-term role will be on the team.
With the off days Thursday, Monday, and the following Thursday, the Phillies will have a rested bullpen to supplement Howard. But if they don't? Things could get tougher.
What’s the future for Matt Moore, David Hale, and Chase Anderson?
This is a great question. The Phillies entered 2021 with seemingly too many long men in the bullpen in Vince Velasquez and David Hale. Velasquez has found his way back into the Phillies starting rotation. Meanwhile, Hale continues to struggle and Chase Anderson and Matt Moore have lost their rotation spots.
Hale is perhaps the one most likely to eventually lose his roster spot. Hale has been scored upon in 8 of his 14 outings. Other outings he has not given up his own runs, but his inherited runners scored. One example was the short Anderson start at the Blue Jays (Dunedin).
As we have seen time and time again, spots on the 40-man roster are hard to come by. Hale is on the 40-man roster and his work could be easily replicated by Enyel De Los Santos, who is already in an option year and can go back and forth to Lehigh Valley as the roster demands it.
But what goes against Hale the most, perhaps, is his salary. He earns just $850,000 this season. It's a salary the Phillies can swallow. But for Moore and Anderson, their salaries could help keep them around...as well as the need for extra starters.
The Phillies have another day off on Thursday. Next week they have days off on Monday and Thursday. But after that, they begin a tough stretch.
With a doubleheader against the Mets on the 25th, the Phillies start a stretch of 18 games in 17 days. They will need Anderson or Moore to start a game. It appears it might be Moore.
The Phillies have Moore in Lehigh Valley on a rehab assignment, where they have been stretching him out to start. In his most recent start against Triple-A Rochester, Moore went five innings, allowing three earned runs. He could get one of the starts in the double-header.
Anderson remains on the COVID-19 Injured List. We have no information on how he is doing at this time. So planning on what happens to him remains to be seen.
There could be other injuries we have not seen yet that leave room for all three, but time will tell. The Phillies seem reluctant to give up arms when they can otherwise hang onto them.
And beyond that, eyes remain on Howard's rotation spot. Could one of them find their way back into the starting rotation? Perhaps.
What are the chances Neftali Feliz gets put in the roster and in the majors? Dude is absolutely killing it in AAA.
Give Neftali Feliz a ton of credit. The veteran reliever did not pitch in 2019, or 2020. But he signed on with the Phillies with a Spring Training invitation, and he appears to be making the most of it.
Buried in the depth chart, Feliz did not get many chances in Grapefruit League action. He appeared in just three Grapefruit League games. That was not long enough of a look to earn a spot on the Phillies roster.
But Feliz went to the Alternate Site and then to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. In 12 appearances, Feliz is 2-1 with a 1.59 earned run average and four saves. At this point, he has to be a consideration for the Phillies down the line.
There are two challenges to a Feliz promotion. The first is the many veteran arms we have looked at already. The second is the need for space on the 40-man roster.
Would the Phillies cut a prospect to make room for Feliz? Probably not. But if there happened to be a 40-man spot given a long-term injury or the release of one of the aforementioned veteran players, maybe the Phillies will give him a shot when their pitching is thin.
But unlike someone like De Los Santos or Falter, Feliz cannot be quickly optioned back to Triple-A. So for Feliz to come up, the Phillies will be sure it's not for a quick appearance, after which they would have to maybe immediately designated him for assigment.
But he bears watching. I have not seen him yet in person, but I'm curious as to how he looks. Feliz is hanging in there and he just might be able to do help the Phillies at some point.