After a rocky debut six days ago, Spencer Howard looked more like the club's No. 5 prospect on Wednesday.Howard scattered three hits and one walk while striking out five over six innings as Class A Advanced Clearwater cruised to a 4-0 victory over Lakeland at Publix Field at Joker Marchant
After a rocky debut six days ago, Spencer Howard looked more like the club's No. 5 prospect on Wednesday.
Howard scattered three hits and one walk while striking out five over six innings as Class A Advanced Clearwater cruised to a 4-0 victory over Lakeland at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Gameday box score
The 2017 second-rounder retired the entire Flying Tigers lineup the first time through and allowed only one batter to advance beyond first base. That came in contrast to his first 2019 start in which he allowed three runs on five hits and didn't make it out of the fourth frame against Dunedin on April 4.
In the eyes of Howard, though, the better performance wasn't a result of better pitches. The work he put in between the two outings was the difference.
"Stuff-wise, I felt almost better in my first outing," he said. "But I went over just kind of some of the sequences and execution with our pitching coach [Brad Bergesen] in between these two [starts], and just kind of dialed that in a little bit more. But yeah, good to get a good one under your belt."
While Howard's debut performance affected his preparation, he didn't go into the game thinking he needed to bounce back, calling it "just another start." He did, however, want to pitch well for another reason.
"Our bullpen has been grinding away, kind of carrying us," the right-hander said. "So I was figuring just go after hitters and try to keep my pitch count low to eat up innings right now. That was kind of my mind-set going on."
Howard is beginning his second full season in the Minors after compiling a 9-8 record with a 3.78 ERA, 147 strikeouts and only 40 walks across 23 starts at Class A Lakewood. He was strong as a rookie as well, striking out 40 over 28 1/3 innings while carrying a 4.45 ERA in nine starts for Class A Short Season Williamsport.
As the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo product continues to rise through the ranks and develop as a pitcher, he believes the key to improvement will be balancing his pitches and executing them at the right times.
"Keep my highs low and my lows high," Howard said. "I've kind of come to the realization that I don't need to throw as hard as I can to get guys out, and so it's still a process of kind of finding the sweet spot where I still maintain control and control off-speed vs. just going up there and throwing the [heck] out of the ball."
Brady Policelli singled to lead off the bottom of the fourth, but he was caught stealing by catcher Rodolfo Duran, the 19th-ranked Phillies prospect. Tigers No. 14 prospectKody Clemens walked later in the frame, but was left stranded.
Luke Burch singled in the fifth, but was forced out by Brock Deatherage. Detroit's No. 23 prospect promptly stole second but was nabbed at third by Duran. And Cole Peterson's one-out single in the sixth proved uneventful after Howard fanned Policelli and induced a groundout from A.J. Simcox.
Philadelphia's No. 12 prospect Simon Muzziotti tripled and singled in No. 18 Nick Maton in the fourth. Madison Stokes belted a two-run homer and Danny Mayer added a solo shot.
Jordan Wolf is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @byjordanwolf.