Phillies Notes: Howard to return to Phillies lineup on Friday

Posted: September 23, 2011

Manager Charlie Manuel says Ryan Howard is a balance/technique/rhythm hitter, and it typically requires a sufficient number of at-bats before such a hitter can mesh those three components.

The Phillies slugger took full batting practice Thursday for the first time since he received an injection Monday to alleviate the pain in his left ankle caused by bursitis.

After the Phillies' 6-1 loss to Washington, Manuel said Howard would return to the lineup Friday in the first of a three-game series against the Mets at Citi Field. The manager said Howard would likely sit out Saturday's game and then play the remaining four games, if he's healthy.

Hunter Pence, who has missed the last two games with a mild strain of the patellar tendon in his left knee, will likely be back Saturday, Manuel said.

Manuel wants to get Howard as many plate appearances as possible the final six games.

Howard was going strong in 2010 before a severely sprained ankle sidelined him the first three weeks of August. The first 10 games after his return in 2010, Howard batted .125 with one homer, four RBIs, and 17 strikeouts in 40 at-bats.

With the playoffs set to begin Oct. 1, it's no wonder Manuel is eager to get the guy he calls The Big Piece back in the lineup.

Square one

Chase Utley began the night batting .212 (7 for 33) without a home run or RBI since he was beaned by Atlanta's Eric O'Flaherty Sept. 7. Rarely does Utley reveal his emotions on the field, but his frustration reached a point where he angrily tossed his bat after striking out for the second time in Wednesday's game.

"He's trying to find his swing," Manuel said. "He was getting there before he got hit in the head. He hit a ball in the bullpen and another off the fence and he was using his legs and getting his timing and rhythm down. But after that time he missed, he's back to square one. He's trying to get to where he can be relaxed and hit the ball like he can."

Utley missed the first 47 games of the season with patellar tendinitis. He's followed a regimen of stretching and treatments to stay on the field, but Manuel indicated Utley's knee condition prevents him from doing strength exercises.

"It's hard for him to do a lot of conditioning on his legs, and the legs are an important part of hitting," Manuel said. "But once he plays a lot he'll be OK."

Grand opening

Shane Victorino and his wife, Melissa, hosted the grand opening of the refurbished Nicetown Boys and Girls Club Thursday. The 105-year-old club was in danger of closing down until the Shane Victorino Foundation pledged $900,000 to save it.

Extra bases

The Phillies set a home attendance record of 3,680,718, and have 204 consecutive sellouts. . . . The Phils were swept in a series of at least three games for the first time all season. . . . John Bowker made his first start in a Phillies uniform in right field.     



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