Last September in the Sally League playoffs for Lakewood, Spencer Howard pitched a nine-inning, no-hitter. His catcher was Rodolfo Duran. Last night Howard was making his first start for Clearwater since April 23rd and Duran was again his catcher. This time he pitched a four-inning, one-hitter striking out seven with no walks. He faced only one batter over the four inning minimum. Not quite deja vu but he had his major league stuff again especially in the first inning when he struck out the side against the Palm Beach Cardinals. Watch Howard’s 7 strike threes:
Howard would go on to strike out two more in the second inning, one in the third and one in his fourth and his final inning. He threw 56 pitches, 40 for strikes. Though he pitched a couple of innings in the Gulf Coast League we could tell he was not at full strength after his two and half month layoff with what was described as a “shoulder strain”.
The Threshers have stopped putting up the pitch speed on the scoreboards but Howard looked like was back in the first inning with his high 90’s fast ball and knee buckling curve ball. He used his breaking pitch effectively to freeze several Cardinal batter on called third strikes.
We can’t see Howard staying much longer in the Florida State League. He is just too good for this level. When a major league team is in the hunt for the post season and needs starting pitching, why keep someone who obviously has the talent at High A? We did notice Phillies Special Assistant to the General Manager, Jorge Velandia, was sitting up behind home plate with the scouts in Section 111 watching intently.
Howard’s battery mate, Duran, started slowly in April hitting only .137. He was catching in a three-man rotation behind the plate then. He is back as the regular catcher hitting .293 (.903 OPS) with two homers to start July. Last night Rodolfo lined a homer between the tiki bar and the bullpens in left field.
Both Howard and Duran deserve to be moved up. Hopefully, Valandia will report back to the front office braintrust that it is time for Howard to get ready to pitch in the major leagues this season. He showed last night that he has major league stuff right now!