Phillies Notebook: Howard's recovery project

Posted: October 02, 2012

MIAMI - When the Phillies signed Ryan Howard to a 5-year, $125 million contract extension in April 2010, they couldn't have envisioned in their worst nightmares that the former MVP would begin it with a season like 2012.

In the first year of what was the largest contract in team history, prior to Cole Hamels' new deal, Howard had career lows in hitting (.219), on-base percentage (.295) and slugging percentage (.423).

He hit 14 home runs. He played in 71 games, missing more than half of the season.

After being shut down on Saturday with a broken right big toe, suffered on Thursday when he dropped the lead pipe he warms up with in the on-deck circle, Howard's nightmarish 2012 officially came to an end.

With the end of the season comes to beginning of the most important winter of his career. Howard, who turns 33 in November, is owed $105 million through 2017 and is coming up on the 1-year anniversary of the left Achilles' injury that marred his 2012 season.

"I view it as an opportunity to start over, to really get back in the swing of things with my normal routine," Howard said. "I look forward to it. I look forward to having a little time to decompress because this was a crazy year, a crazy season."

After rupturing his Achilles' on the final play of the 2011 season, Howard appeared to be ahead of schedule in his rehab when spring training began in February. Before position players were even scheduled to report, Howard was taking ground balls at first base and doing light jogging drills, too.

But in late February he had a setback, suffering an infection at the site of the surgery in his left foot. His lengthy rehab finally came to an end when Howard made his debut on July 6.

Howard, however, was admittedly playing at less than 100 percent. And it showed.

Howard struck out 99 times in 292 plate appearances. In his final 30 games, he hit .179 with 40 strikeouts and 10 extra-base hits.

"I think I'm a better hitter than that," said Howard, who has looked visibly frustrated at times this month. "But I think for being able to come in and do the best that I could and contribute, to still get 56 RBI and 14 home runs, considering everything that had gone on and not have a spring training to get ready for the season . . . I look at that as a positive."

If the Phillies hope to rebound from an injury-plagued, underachieving 2012 season and return to the postseason in 2013, there's no question they need a Ryan Howard closer to the form of the previous three seasons, when he hit .270 with a .877 OPS and averaged 36 home runs and 122 RBI.

"I think it's just a matter of getting him right - I think it's still there," manager Charlie Manuel said. "There's going to be some hard work in it. I think he has better years ahead of him. I do. A lot of it is up to him."

While the majority of major leaguers missing the postseason this year will look forward to rest and relaxation, Howard will diligently continue his rehab and begin laying down the foundation for a turnaround season in 2013.

"I looked at this entire season as a learning process," Howard said, before adding the most important lesson.

"Don't get hurt," he said.

Tyson joins Fightins

Tyson Brummett will join the Phillies in Washington on Monday.

Brummett, a 28-year-old who went 5-6 with a 3.20 ERA in 44 games (eight starts) between Double A Reading and Triple A Lehigh Valley this season, gives the team another arm in preparation for Tuesday. Tyler Cloyd was supposed to start Tuesday, but was scratched this weekend with right arm fatigue.

"We just wanted to give Charlie [Manuel] and [pitching coach Rich] Dubee more cushion," said general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. "Without Cloyd starting, it puts a taxing on the bullpen."

With no more starters on the roster, Tuesday is likely to be a bullpen game in Washington. Cloyd had hoped to finish out the season, but said he first began experiencing pain following his start in New York on Sept. 20.

"We did treatment for it [and] it got it better for the Washington start," Cloyd said. "I didn't feel it at all during the game or after the game. But then it just got tighter and tighter as it went along and it has never really bounced back from there."

Cloyd threw 200 innings in 2012: 25 at Double A Reading, 142 at Triple A Lehigh Valley and 33 with the Phillies. He threw 146 innings in 2011.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Brummett, the Phils transferred Brian Schneider (hamstring) to the 60-day DL.

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