Phillies Notes: Ryan Howard stays in lineup vs. lefthander

Posted: July 07, 2013

Four hours before Friday's first pitch, the Braves announced a switch of their starting pitcher from a righthander to a lefthander. Charlie Manuel was aware of the change, and it did not affect his lineup. Ryan Howard would play first base and bat cleanup regardless.

Howard had not started against the previous three lefty pitchers and four of the last five.

"He was going to play," Manuel said. "He's going to play tomorrow, and he'll probably play the rest of the time through the break."

Though the slugger is one of baseball's worst hitters when a lefty is throwing, he promptly swatted a solo homer off Paul Maholm in the third inning Friday. Manuel disputed the notion Howard has become a platoon player with 31/2 seasons remaining on his mega-contract.

The manager cited Howard's balky left knee. He believes it is prudent to often rest Howard. It makes most sense to do that when lefties pitch.

Howard had not hit well against lefthanders for an extended period, long before the knee was an issue. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Howard's difficulties are half related to the injury. Since 2011, Howard has a .596 on-base-plus-slugging percentage against lefties. That ranks 222d of 233 hitters with at least 250 plate appearances against them.

His splits are even more pronounced in 2013. He is hitting .302 with an .878 OPS against righties. That drops to .169 with a .503 OPS against lefties.

"I don't look at Ryan Howard as a platoon player yet," Manuel said. "I think he can still hit and still get going. His knee does bother him. If we're going to rest him against somebody, it should be against a lefty. But at the same time, it doesn't mean he is a platoon player yet."

Manuel said his questioners had "short memories." He cited a game in 2006 when Howard pinch-hit against a lefty and cracked a game-tying home run.

That, of course, was quite some time ago.

Manuel said a player's capabilities - even if current performance does not mirror them - play a factor in his decisions. Hence, Howard will play against lefties.

Kratz runs

Backup catcher Erik Kratz ran the bases for the first time since his recent knee surgery. Kratz has been hitting in the cage and caught two bullpen sessions Thursday. He suffered a meniscus tear June 9, and the team estimated a four- to six-week timetable for his return.

He could soon begin a minor-league rehab assignment.

Biddle held back

Reading's Jesse Biddle won't pitch in the Eastern League All-Star Game on Wednesday. Biddle, a lefthander from Germantown Friends, will pitch in the All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field four days later, and the Phillies don't want him to throw off of his schedule.

Extra bases

The all-star teams will be announced Saturday night. The Phillies are expected to place Domonic Brown and Cliff Lee on the National League team as reserves. . . . Tim Hudson was bumped to start Saturday because of a lingering neck issue, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.

Marc Narducci contributed to this article.

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