Phillies Notebook: Charlie Manuel wants to start early with Ryan Howard next year

Posted: September 21, 2012

NEW YORK - For the second time in as many days, Charlie Manuel brought up an interesting idea that could go a long way in rebuilding Ryan Howard.

Knowing his cleanup hitter lost a lot of reps in his lengthy rehab from left Achilles' surgery, Manuel volunteered that it might behoove both the team and Howard to get in extra work this winter before spring training starts in February. Howard didn't have a spring training last year; so perhaps an extended spring this year would do a swing good.

"We're going to have to spend time with him," Manuel said. "We can work there. He'll be right close to Clearwater. We can do some early work with him."

Howard is annually one of the first Phillies to arrive in Florida each winter. He regularly works out at The Athletes Compound at Saddlebrook, a Tampa training compound that welcomes fellow All-Stars Derek Jeter and Ryan Zimmerman, among others.

Manuel makes his offseason home in Winter Haven, Fla., about a 90-minute drive from the Phils' spring training home in Clearwater. Although he said he hasn't formally talked to Howard about joining forces this winter, Manuel doesn't see why it wouldn't work out.

"I haven't talked with him about it, but I will," Manuel said. "I don't think it's a problem."

Howard entered play on Wednesday hitting .225 with 10 home runs, 46 RBI and a .709 OPS in 62 games, and went hitless in three at-bats against the Mets (including two strikeouts) before his game-winning, two-run home run in the ninth, his first homer in 17 games this month, as the Phillies escaped, 3-2.

In his previous 22 games, he hit .169 with 27 strikeouts in 83 at-bats.

"The more that he can work out and play, he should get stronger, according to what they say," Manuel said. "I think missing spring training and missing those at-bats you get and playing, that's affected him. He's definitely going to have to work hard to get his swing back.

"I'm concerned about Ryan, but, at the same time, I've known him a long time and I think he definitely can perform like he has [in the past]. This definitely, especially the last month or so, hasn't been good for him."

Although home runs have been down throughout baseball since Howard hit 198 home runs from 2006-09, Manuel still has high aspirations for his longtime cleanup hitter's power potential.

"He's capable of hitting 60 [home runs], really," Manuel said. "But he's got to work, he's got to get his swing back. And actually, we've got to work with him. But I don't mind that, because that's what it's all about. I know it's still there. He's going to have to do a lot of work. We're going to have to spend some time with him."

Fixing 'pen in 2013

During the Phillies' surge into the NL wild-card race in September, many of their bullpen arms have come of age, and veteran Antonio Bastardo has found consistency for the first time this season. But beyond Jonathan Papelbon, there are few - if any - locks in the current relief corps for the 2013 season. While Manuel has been impressed with the talent some of his young relievers have shown in the last month, he wants the Phils to add a big bullpen arm this winter.

"I think we have some real good pieces, but I think we need at least one good piece," Manuel said. "And when I talk about pieces, I mean someone that's very, very good. First-class good. That's what it takes to be a first-class team."

Among the list of high-profile, free-agent relievers this winter: Tigers closer Jose Valverde, Tampa closer Fernando Rodney, Texas righthander Mike Adams and former Phillies pitcher and current rehabbing Cincinnati Red Ryan Madson.

Cloyd gets rest

The last time Tyler Cloyd took the mound, he did so on short rest; he pitched in the first game in Houston last Thursday, 4 days removed from a doubleheader.

Tuesday's rainout at Citi Field gave Cloyd more rest than normal this time around. When he takes the mound on Thursday, he will be pitching on 6 days' of rest.

Cloyd, who is 3 weeks and four starts removed from his major league debut, has used the extra down time to work some kinks out in his mechanics. More specifically, changing the way he has been pitching from the stretch.

"We've just been widening it, spreading my feet out a little more to give me more of a load and a lot of time for my arm to get on top of the ball and driving the ball down," Cloyd said.

Cloyd faced the Mets in his major league debut on Aug. 29 at Citizens Bank Park, allowing three runs on seven hits in six innings. The Phils could have pushed him back to Sunday, using Tuesday's rainout to pitch everyone else on regular rest, but pitching coach Rich Dubee preferred to keep Cloyd on the Mets with Kyle Kendrick on the Atlanta Braves, citing matchups.

"KK has had pretty good success against Atlanta," Dubee said of Kendrick, who is 6-1 with a 2.87 ERA in 18 career games against the Braves.

Kendrick starts Friday against Atlanta at Citizens Bank Park.

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