Phillies Notes: Howard wants more work against lefties

Ryan Howard homers off lefty Cesar Jimenez in an intrasquad game.
Ryan Howard homers off lefty Cesar Jimenez in an intrasquad game. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff)
Posted: February 27, 2014

CLEARWATER, Fla. - The first two pitchers Ryan Howard faced in a spring game were lefthanded, and that suited Ryne Sandberg just fine. The Phillies manager watched Howard lace a single off Jesse Biddle and smash a homer to deep center off Cesar Jimenez.

This was just an intrasquad scrimmage. But Sandberg expects Howard to spend the spring improving his craft against lefthanders.

"He's talked to me about that himself," Sandberg said. "He's approached me about seeing lefthanded pitching. If he makes the lefthanders throw strikes, in my opinion he can hit balls in the strike zone."

Howard hit the home run on an 0-2 pitch. He said he feels fine, but declined to expound. "It's like that whole superstition thing," he said.

Howard, of course, thrived against lefthanders last spring only to continue his downward trend when the games mattered. He hit .400 with three doubles and three homers in 30 at-bats against lefties during Grapefruit League play. He mustered three doubles and three homers with a .173 batting average in 87 regular-season plate appearances against lefties.

Howard's .604 OPS vs. lefthanders since 2011 ranks 202d out of 213 qualified hitters. Sandberg has not eliminated the possibility of a platoon, but that is not an imminent option.

Grapefruit League games begin Wednesday, and Howard endorsed the atmosphere in Sandberg's first camp.

"The workload has been a lot more than it's been in years past," Howard said, "but we're going out, getting work in, and guys are definitely sweating a lot more."

Scrimmage tidbits

The staff was impressed by David Buchanan, a 24-year-old righty who reached triple-A Lehigh Valley at the end of last season. He pitched two scoreless innings and struck out the side - John Mayberry Jr., Maikel Franco, and Clete Thomas - in the second inning.

"Buchanan was down in the zone the most and got the best results," pitching coach Bob McClure said.

Biddle, the team's top pitching prospect, allowed three runs on five hits and a walk in two innings. Cesar Hernandez hit a two-run homer off Jeremy Horst. Freddy Galvis doubled twice.

Extra bases

Cole Hamels (biceps tendinitis) will throw his first bullpen session Wednesday. It was originally slated for Tuesday, but McClure said there was a scheduling oversight. . . . Miguel Gonzalez will start Saturday's game against the Yankees in Tampa. . . . Rangers manager Ron Washington announced Yu Darvish will start opening day against the Phillies. . . . Roberto Hernandez will start the Grapefruit League opener Wednesday against Toronto at Bright House Field.


mgelb@phillynews.com

@magelb inquirer.com/phillieszone

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