Phillies Notebook: Howard to miss 6 to 8 weeks because of knee injury

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Ryan Howard will miss significant time due to another injury to his left leg.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Ryan Howard will miss significant time due to another injury to his left leg.
Posted: July 10, 2013

THERE ARE two ways to look at the news that Ryan Howard will undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.

The optimistic viewpoint is that the first baseman had a pretty good excuse for his mediocre performance during the first 3 months of the season. His diminished power - 26.0 at-bats per home run, the worst average of his career - and .266/.319/.465 batting line make a lot more sense when you consider that he was playing on a meniscus that went from "frayed" in May to torn in July.

Not surprisingly, this is the viewpoint that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. took in announcing that Howard could miss between 6 and 8 weeks after undergoing surgery on a date that has yet to be determined.

"I'm encouraged," Amaro said. "It could have been much more significant damage. Obviously, we don't want any of our players to be on the DL for all that long, but we know what it is, we know it's treatable, and hopefully we can get him back in time to play this year."

The pessimistic viewpoint is that Howard, who still has $85 million guaranteed on his contract through 2016 will miss a significant chunk of a second straight season, once again because of a surgery on the leg where the power in his swing originates.

While Amaro pointed to catcher Erik Kratz' swift recovery from a similar injury as an example of a player returning ahead of that 6-to-8 week window, the Phillies might not have much incentive to rush Howard back if they do not make a significant dent in their 7-1/2-game deficit in the National League East before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.

The cause of Howard's injury is unknown. While it could be a simple case of wear-and-tear, the knee problem also could have developed as a result of his body compensating for the ruptured Achilles' tendon he had surgically-repaired after the 2011 postseason, especially when you consider the pain on the bottom of his foot that he also has been dealing with.

"Really, I couldn't tell you that," Amaro said. "It's possible. Everything is connected."

As Howard recovers from surgery, the Phillies will get their first extended look at 26-year-old slugger Darin Ruf, who will garner most of the playing time at first base. Ruf had spent most of the Triple A season attempting to convert to leftfield, a position where he struggled defensively in spring training. A natural first baseman, Ruf is 14-for-40 with three home runs, three doubles and a triple in his brief major league career. Ruf burst onto the radar in 2012 when he hit .317/.408/.620 with 38 home runs at Double A Reading. Howard's injury will give Ruf significant opportunity to prove he can hit major league pitching on a regular basis.

The 33-year-old Howard has hit just .244/.307/.445 with 25 home runs in 546 at-bats since the start of his current 5-year, $125 million contract, which was tacked on to the 2 years that remained on his existing deal when he signed it in April 2010.

No Dom Derby

Domonic Brown entered last night ranked No. 2 in the National League with 23 home runs, but that wasn't enough to warrant a selection to the annual Home Run Derby.

NL captain David Wright selected Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez, who before last night, led the league with 24 home runs, and Nationals star Bryce Harper, who had 13. Wright also selected childhood friend Michael Cuddyer, who has 15 home runs for the Rockies. Brown will represent the Phillies in the All-Star Game a week from today.

Injury update

Erik Kratz, recovering from surgery on his left knee, played in a rehab game for Triple A Lehigh Valley last night. Lefthander Jeremy Horst, on the disabled list with a strained left elbow, is scheduled to pitch for the IronPigs tonight.

DN Members Only : John Lannan pitches his best game of the year.


On Twitter: @ByDavidMurphy

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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