"I think it's better some days than others," the manager said. "When he plays on it some nights, he agitates it more than others."
The pain has been persistent.
"It's sore," said Howard, who was favoring the ankle as he walked through the clubhouse. "There are days when it is looser than others and days when it is stiff. I think the one constant has been the soreness that has just been there."
Howard ended an 0-for-15 slide in the second game of Thursday's doubleheader against Florida by lining a game-winning double in the 10th inning. He refers to his injury as a "hankle" because both the ankle and heel are hurting.
"It really doesn't affect me in my stance," he said. "It's more so running."
Howard said he didn't know for sure whether this problem is related to the ankle injury that sent him to the disabled list late last season.
The Phillies are sitting so nicely that they have the luxury of giving key players plenty of rest before the NL division series, which begins Oct. 1.
Yet Manuel doesn't quite see it that way. Instead, he will attempt a delicate balancing act during the next two weeks. He wants to give his regulars enough work to keep them sharp, but also give them enough time off to keep them fresh. He also wants to give the bench players enough at-bats to prevent them from getting stale.
Manuel believes that the five-day layoff between last season's NLDS and NL Championship Series factored into the Phillies' offensive problems when they lost to San Francisco in the NLCS. So he wants to play his regulars together for about half the remaining 13 games.
"I think it's important to put a lineup on the field that we'll try to use during the postseason," he said.
Largely because of injuries to Placido Polanco, Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley, the regulars have been in the starting lineup for only seven games since Aug. 7.
Ben Francisco started in left field Friday. Going into the game, Francisco had only 40 at-bats since July 1. John Mayberry Jr. started at first base. Brian Schneider was at catcher for Carlos Ruiz, so only five of the eight position players are regulars.
The Phils were trying to become the first NL team to be at least 47 games over .500 since the 2004 Cardinals, who finished 105-57. . . . For his last eight starts, Cliff Lee has a 0.56 ERA, the lowest ever by a Phillies pitcher over an eight-game span, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Brown called up
The Phillies recalled outfielder Domonic Brown and righthanded reliever Justin De Fratus and selected the contracts of catcher Erik Kratz, lefthander Joe Savery, and outfielder Brandon Moss from triple-A Lehigh Valley.