Day 1 Phillies Notes: Herrera Will Get Look, Howard to Compete for Rotation Spot

Phillies manager Joe Girardi met with reporters today following day one for pitchers and catchers down in Clearwater. Among the topics discussed were Spencer Howard’s immediate future, Brad Miller’s role, and, of course, Odúbel Herrera.

Let’s run through a quick recap of the nearly 25-minute session.

Herrera Will Get a Look

Let’s start with Odúbel Herrera because like it or not, his bid to make the team is going to be a big storyline this spring.

Asked about the Phillies’ plans for Herrera, Girardi indicated the club will take a look at all of its mini-camp invitees, which includes the team’s former starting center fielder.

After indicating he is unsure of where Herrera is at from a physical standpoint following an extended absence from game action (he last played in 2019), Girardi noted the current collective bargaining agreement allows for a shot at “redemption.” Girardi also explained that “he [Herrera] will have the opportunity and have to prove himself.”

The other part of the discussion centered around how the clubhouse would potentially receive Herrera should he play his way into a spot this spring. The manager conceded there may be different viewpoints within the clubhouse.

Among those who will have open arms? It sounds like Aaron Nola is willing to give Herrera a second chance:

Listen, if you’re dying for a take here — or simply rooting for Herrera to fail — don’t take the words of Girardi or Nola as a sign the team is going full steam ahead with the second chance rehabilitation project.

Morality aside, the baseball reality is that it will take a massive effort from the 29-year-old to work his way back into the Phillies’ plans. That’s a tough ask for a guy who posted a .629 OPS prior to a near two-year absence.

 

Howard Not a Rotation Lock

Following an uneven debut in 2020, Phillies top pitching prospect Spencer Howard will have some competition in his bid to break camp as a part of the starting rotation.

The additions of Matt Moore ($3 million guaranteed) and Chase Anderson ($4 million guaranteed) mean that Howard, who posted a 5.92 ERA over six starts, isn’t the obvious lock for a spot that he seemed to be just a few months ago.

After battling some injury issues last season, however, it doesn’t sound like the team plans to take an ultra-conservative approach with the 24-year-old this spring.

“He will compete for a spot in the rotation, so he is not on a slower progression,” Girardi said. “If he was to start, we would anticipate that he would be a fourth or fifth starter. You might see him during his progression in spring training — he may not go the normal progression — he might go a little slow, but really, he’s in competition, so we need to try to get him ready to see where he’s at.”

One way or another, Howard will be part of the team’s rotation at some point, particularly during a season in which, as Girardi noted, depth will be more important than ever as pitchers readjust to a full season schedule.

But is it possible he won’t emerge as part of the initial rotation? Seems that way to me.

It’s clear that he’s going to need to beat out Moore, Anderson, Vince Velasquez and other added depth pieces.

Miller’s Role

The Phillies made the signing of Brad Miller official Wednesday. Miller, who posted an .807 OPS with the Cardinals in 142 at-bats last season, could see some time in left field when Andrew McCutchen needs a day off.

Girardi noted Miller’s success against right-handed pitching. The 31-year-old has a career .772 OPS against RHP and is coming off a year in which he slugged .464 in 151 plate appearances against righties.

Hoskins On Track

Girardi told reporters that every player expected to participate was a part of today’s workout. One player to keep a close eye on is Rhys Hoskins, who is working his way back from October Tommy John surgery.

Last season was one of ups and downs for the Phillies first baseman. Hoskins, who Girardi indicated may not play right at the start of Grapefruit League action, saw his power go noticeably absent over the first month of the season before it reemerged.

After homering just once in his first 23 games, he clubbed nine homers over his final 19 contests before his season ended on Sept. 12.

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