Judging by the way Howard spoke Thursday, there was no need to challenge the manager's decision.
"Right now, it's just, I'm in a funk," Howard said. "And there ain't no point in trying to hide it. Right now I'm not seeing the ball. I'm not comfortable. I'm not going to lie, I'm a little frustrated, a little flustered. So I guess it would be a good day for a day off."
He did not even take batting practice before Thursday's game. He pinch-hit in the ninth inning of a 3-0 loss and took strike three for the game's final out.
Entering the day, Howard was three for his last 22 with 14 strikeouts. The Nationals started lefty Ross Detwiler, so Manuel saw a natural chance to rest Howard.
Howard refused to blame his slump on a shortened spring training to compensate for missing the season's first 84 games. Manuel disagreed.
"When you go to spring training and you get some at-bats - I don't know, 40, 50, 60 - sometimes all of a sudden you start getting tired. You start losing your swing, but you'll come back around. That's kind of what it's all about."
Manuel sensed Howard's frustration in their meeting.
"He's kind of upset because he's striking out," Manuel said. "Probably has a reason to be, you know."
Lee on waivers
The Phillies placed Cliff Lee on trade waivers, according to a report by Yahoo Sports, merely standard procedure this time of year. Most teams place a majority of their players on waivers after Aug. 1 regardless of whether they intend to trade them or not.
Lee is likely to go unclaimed because he is owed approximately $95 million through 2015. If a team claims him, the Phillies can pull him back, negotiate a trade with the claimant, or simply allow that team to absorb his entire contract. It's highly doubtful anyone would claim Lee for risk of inheriting a massive commitment.
The Phillies, a baseball source said, were not willing to assume any of Lee's remaining salary during trade talks before July 31. They were also asking for a bounty of top prospects in return.
Lee has a no-trade clause that prevents a deal to any of 21 teams without his consent.
For those reasons, any Lee deal now or in the winter is doubtful unless general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.'s demands change.
"They told us those were rumors, and there wasn't anything really in the works," Lee said Tuesday. "Ruben did tell me some teams did propose some stuff to him, but nothing that even made close to sense for the Phillies. I signed here to win here. Obviously nobody is happy the way this year has gone, but this is where I want to be. We still have a lot of talent."
Nate Schierholtz was the first Phillies player to have a game-winning RBI on a home run in his first game with the team since Russell Branyan on Aug. 14, 2007. Schierholtz was not in the lineup Thursday after his debut. . . . The Phillies used 43 players through 104 games, which was one more than their total (42) during the entire 2011 season.
Manuel removes struggling Howard from lineup. C7.