Phillies rookie Spencer Howard has new pregame meal routine to maintain velocity

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Spencer Howard hoping new pregame meal routine helps with velocity originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

In his second start of the season Thursday in Miami, Spencer Howard did not show 96-97 mph early like he did last weekend, but he did do a better job of maintaining his velocity.

Facing the Red Sox at home last Saturday, Howard maxed out at 97.3 mph but was sitting 91-92 by the third inning and even threw a fastball at 90.4. It was a big concern because the same thing happened last season in the majors for the highly-touted Howard.

After that first start, Howard attributed the decline in velocity to being winded and not getting his heart rate back down after running out a ball to first base. It was probably a comment better left unmade.

Against the Marlins in Thursday’s 3-2 Phillies win, Howard averaged 93.5 mph with his fastball and maxed out at 95.8. There were still some 91s late and it was not by design. 

Howard said after the game that focusing on his mechanics to better maintain that velocity will be his top priority in between starts.

“I do think my tendency is to have more effort but it’s a matter of putting that effort toward the right places,” said Howard, whose career-high in innings at any professional level is 112 with Class A Lakewood in 2018. “I know definitely for me moving forward, that’s going to be my focus, get a lot of towel work, sink back into my legs more and be a little more efficient. That will come in time.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction.” 

Howard adjusted his pregame meal routine in hopes it would lead to more stamina and velocity. After speaking with his rotation mates, he decided that eating closer to game-time made more sense.

“Just eating more and eating closer to the game,” he said. “Talking to the starters, the other guys, I realized I kind of shut it down a couple of hours before the game and that’s exactly what not to do. 

“Just giving my body the fuel that it needs closer to the start. I had a banana and peanut butter about 20 minutes before I went out. Getting simple sugars during the game, too.” 

Howard lasted four innings in Miami and pitched to three batters in the fifth. He allowed one run on two hits and three walks with four strikeouts.

His next start will likely be early next week in Cincinnati. The Reds can be a tough offense, especially at Great American Ballpark, and have two big-time fastball hitters in Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos, who rank first and second in the majors in batting average.

“I don’t think it’s still exactly where I want to be,” Howard said, “but it’s trending in the right direction.”

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