Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ryan Howard's days in a Phillies uniform may be numbered

Phillies - Ryan Howard

 By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
July 24 2014, 1:00PM EDT.
@Philabaseball

PHILADELPHIA - Ryan Howard was not in the Phillies lineup again on Thursday, marking the first time all season the first baseman has sat for back-to-back games.

Manager Ryne Sandberg stopped short of saying it Wednesday, but it appears he plans to platoon Howard with Darin Ruf at first base.

"The lineup will be a day-to-day thing now," Sandberg said.

Howard, 34, has two years remaining on a contract with the Phillies and is owed $25 million over each of the next two seasons. He also has a club option for 2017 with a $10 million buyout. Lofty figures considering he's hitting .156 in the month of July with a .270 on-base percentage and a .219 slugging percentage.

“It's about wins and losses out here,” Sandberg said. “When the game starts, it's about winning the game and being productive and chipping in and doing the part and doing something to help win a game. If that means playing somebody else there and there's production right away -- that's trying to win a baseball game.”

Phillies officials have internally discussed the possibility of releasing Howard at the conclusion of the regular season, but the amount of money he's owed makes the decision to split ways that much more difficult. The Phillies have floated his name to other clubs for a possible trade, but his contract is too large of a burden for a club to take on.

"I can't think about that stuff," Howard said late Wednesday afternoon. "Everybody is entitled to their own opinion."

Howard is one of the main pieces of an aging core that put together a successful run, including a World Series in 2008 and five consecutive division titles. A three-time All-Star, he won an MVP Award in 2006 and twice led the majors in home runs.

“It’s been a disappointing year for me, period,” Howard said. “Things haven’t necessarily shaped up the way I’ve wanted them to, coming back after basically not playing for the last two years, trying to make it through a full season. There have been a lot of highs and lows. A lot of frustration. There’s frustration from the fans, frustration period. I have my own frustrations as well.

“You know, you try to stay positive. I know people are going to put a lot on either how much money I make, or what I’m doing on the field, this or that or whatever, but at the end if the day, you go out there and try, you try to do what you can. I’m really just trying to get back in the flow of things, trying new things, lowering my hands. Trying to get back into the flow of everything. It is what it is right now. You just try to continue to work. It’s all you can do.”

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