By Sam Bush

The Phillies got blitzed by the Braves last night at CBP to fall three games out of the second wild card with only 19 games to go.

Their starting pitching staff is as thin as a stretched balloon.

And yet, knucklehead Matt Klentak, the general manager, has no plans to bring up 23-year-old Spencer Howard, who had a 2.35 ERA in six regular-season starts with double-A Reading before he struck out 12 in seven innings last week in a playoff game. Reading was eliminated from the Eastern League playoffs Friday night and two of Howard’s teammates — Aaron Brown and Jeff Singer — threw left-handed batting practice to the major-leaguers yesterday.

Howard’s next assignment will be to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, which will begin Sept. 18.

“Obviously, Matt is in close communication with our player development department and I know those conversations are consistently being had,” Kapler told the Inky. “I’m not sure if Spencer would be considered an option for us in 2019 at the major-league level. He’s certainly an intriguing, talented pitcher. I’m not sure.”

The Phillies are concerned with Howard’s limited exposure to major-league baseballs, which are wound tighter and have lower seams than the balls used in double A. They are also surely looking ahead to Howard’s years of club control, as they would rather wait until next season to promote him than use a year of control by having him spend September in the majors.

But it may have been beneficial for Howard — who projects to be a key piece of the team’s future — to get a taste of a playoff race. The Phillies, Kapler said, “know we’re being counted out,” but “we don’t believe it.”