Howard's lagging defensive play could mean earlier exits

Posted: April 23, 2014

LOS ANGELES - Ryan Howard was back at his customary position at first base last night at Dodger Stadium. But whether he'd finish the game there was another question.

On Sunday, manager Ryne Sandberg inserted John Mayberry Jr. into the game in place of Howard when the Phillies took the field in the bottom of the eighth inning. Mayberry ended up making a game-saving catch on a ball thrown low in the dirt on the final play of the game an inning later.

Sandberg said Sunday he'd "possibly" considering taking Howard out for defensive purposes more often. He called Mayberry a more athletic option.

But the fact is Howard, never a plus-defender, has seen his game at first base slip with each passing year.

Entering last night's game, Howard had two errors in 16 games this season; among first baseman, only Daric Barton, of the Athletics, and Jose Abreu, of the White Sox (three each), had more.

But Howard also had one error taken back last week, when an official scorer changed a previous decision to award a Milwaukee's Logan Schafer a double, days after the game was played. Howard himself said the play was an error, not a hit.

Among first baseman who qualify, Howard's -0.6 dWAR - the defensive component of the all-encompassing WAR stat (wins above replacement) - ranked 28th out of 28 players.

"He has not played well defensively," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He needs to be better. Pretty simple."

Hamels due back

The Phillies will activate Cole Hamels from the disabled list, possibly as soon as at the conclusion of tonight's game and definitely before they arrive at the ballpark tomorrow.

Hamels will make his first start of the season tomorrow after missing the first 3 weeks of the season. But when Hamels arrives, who goes?

The Phils added an extra reliever in the form of veteran Shawn Camp on Friday, when they optioned starting pitching Jonathan Pettibone to Triple A Lehigh Valley. The 38-year-old Camp hadn't appeared in a game with the team entering yesterday.

B.J. Rosenberg is another candidate. Although the Phillies management and coaching staff like his arm - Rosenberg's fastball has averaged just over 94 mph this season - the 28-year-old reliever is in the middle of a retched stretch. In his previous three outings, Rosenberg had given up a hit or a walk to 10 of the 15 batters he faced, including three home runs.

Rosenberg didn't allow a run in his first five outings of 2014. But opponents were hitting .433 with a 1.318 OPS against him this season, and he nearly has as many walks (three) as he has strikeouts (four) in 6 1/3 innings.

"He has good stuff," Amaro said. "His location has been poor. He's getting whacked. But he has a good arm. He has to pitch better . . . When a guy doesn't have a whole lot of experience, you have to give them chances to find success."

Phillers

The Phillies submitted a request for a review of the official scorer's call on Sunday that ended with Ryan Howard reaching second base on a single and error in his fourth at-bat at Coors Field. If the play had been scored a double, Howard would have the first cycle by a Phillies played since David Bell did so in 2004. Manager Ryne Sandberg: "You're not guaranteed to knock a ball down when you're trying to make a catch like that, especially when he's trying to make a shoestring catch and have a play at the plate. There's a lot going on there. I'm not sure there's a guarantee to knock that down" . . . Darin Ruf (oblique) has began to take swings during his rehab in Clearwater, Fla. But Ruben Amaro Jr. was unsure when Ruf would be ready to get into games on an official rehab assignment.


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|