Phillies Notes: Amaro: Phillies not trying to buy out Howard's contract

Posted: July 27, 2014

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. strongly refuted reports Friday that suggested the team may buy out the contract of slumping first baseman Ryan Howard now or at the end of the season.

After this year, the Phillies will owe Howard $60 million, which includes $25 million for both 2015 and 2016. There is a club option in 2017 with a $10 million buyout.

"All I can tell you is that's not in our best interest," Amaro said before Friday's game at Citizens Bank Park against the Arizona Diamondbacks. "It's not something that we've discussed."

"I fully expect him to be our first baseman next year," Amaro said. "Hopefully he's a very productive one."

Howard, who is batting .224 with 15 home runs, 60 RBIs, a .682 OPS, and 118 strikeouts, was not in the starting lineup for the third consecutive game.

Amaro was asked if the Phillies can win in the future with the 34-year-old Howard at first base.

"We can if Ryan comes back and plays the way we think he can play," Amaro said. "If he doesn't, we have to figure out ways to get better."

Amaro insists that Howard can be a productive player in the future for the Phillies, with this caveat.

"We don't expect Ryan to be the Ryan Howard of '06, '07 '08," Amaro said. "But we know he's a more productive player than he has been over this past month."

From 2006 to 2008, Howard batted .277 with 153 home runs, 431 RBIs, and a .980 OPS.

Conversely during this month, Howard is hitting .156 with one home run, nine RBIs and a .489 OPS.

"It's really been this month that people are focusing on, but sometimes guys need some time," Amaro said. "Not every season or every year is going to go smoothly and productively. Sometimes guys get into a funk and need to get out of it."

Lefthander Wade Miley got the start for Arizona, so the fact that Darin Ruf was the first baseman wasn't a surprise. Howard is hitting .207 with five home runs, 18 RBIs, and a .682 OPS this season against lefthanders. He has struck out 40 times in 91 at-bats.

What did surprise observers was that Howard didn't start on Thursday against San Francisco Giants righthander Tim Hudson. Howard has a career .328 batting average in 80 plate appearances against Hudson.

"I think it's more about, just again, giving him a break to get away from it," Amaro said. "Sometimes when things aren't going good, it doesn't matter who's pitching."

Manager Ryne Sandberg understood that Howard wasn't happy with sitting against Hudson.

"Of course he was upset, not being in the lineup [Thursday], and I would expect that," Sandberg said before the game.

Sandberg said that what is important is to keep the lines of communication open with Howard.

"I had a conversation [Thursday] and had a good conversation [Friday] about the reasoning behind it and what was hoping to come out of it for him and for the team and for a teammate," Sandberg said.

Both Sandberg and Amaro said that the decision was strictly the manager's. Sandberg then talked about the decision.

"I had a mental plan to give him a break and also get another player in there to get a chance to have at-bats and see what that looks like and feels like, so that was the game plan going in," Sandberg said.

After the game, Sandberg hinted that Howard would be in the lineup Saturday against righthander Josh Colimenter.

"Well, we have a right-handed pitcher throwing tomorrow, I'll make the lineup up," Sandberg said. "We'll go forward, but I want him with a little bit of rest and some tweaking of his mechanics like he's done the last couple days, have a big game for us."



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