Phillies Notebook: Phils' Howard back in slump

Posted: August 05, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. - One week ago, Ryan Howard resurfaced from his epic funk with a pivotal performance against the Diamondbacks in which he hit a two-run home run and draw a crucial, late-game walk. Since then, he is 1-for-25 with seven strikeouts and one walk.

"He's made progress overall with making some contact," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "It's a matter of finding some holes and elevating some balls."

With the Phillies trailing, 1-0, in the seventh inning yesterday, Howard got a fastball to hit from Stephen Strasburg. He made solid contact and achieved elevation, but the resulting fly ball petered out in the glove of Denard Span on the warning track in centerfield. By the end of the day, Howard's on-base percentage had dipped to .297, with his slugging percentage sitting at a paltry .366, just seven points higher than Ben Revere.

Aumont demoted

We may have seen the last of Phillippe Aumont in a Phillies uniform, and he might not be long for the organization.

The 25-year-old righthander, the most highly regarded of the three prospects the organization acquired for Cliff Lee from the Mariners in December 2009, will be out of options after this season and, with 7 years of minor league service time, eligible to become a free agent if he is not on the 40-man roster.

Aumont has been a disaster in five major league appearances this season, allowing 19 of the 35 batters he has faced to reach base, 12 of whom ended up scoring. That includes three home runs, three doubles, a triple, and five walks with only six strikeouts. Against the Nationals on Saturday, he allowed six runs on eight hits and a walk with only one strikeout in two innings. Afterward, he was summarily demoted to Triple A.

Aumont has allowed at least two runs in four of his five outings this season, and at least two baserunners in all five. In 45 career big-league appearances, he has a 6.13 ERA and has allowed an average of 6.1 walks per nine innings.

Nola to Reading

Top pitching prospect Aaron Nola remains on the fast track to the big leagues, with the 2014 first-round draft pick scheduled to make his Double A debut on Wednesday when Reading hosts Harrisburg.

In seven games at Class A (Advanced) Clearwater, Nola recorded 30 strikeouts with only five walks to go with a 3.16 ERA in 31 1/3 innings. The 21-year-old righthander is in the midst of transitioning from the once-a-week pitching schedule of the collegiate ranks to the once-every-5-days schedule used in the pros. His last outing at Clearwater came Thursday, when he struck out eight, walked one, and allowed one run on two hits in five innings.

The No. 7 overall pick out of Louisiana State this June, Nola was billed as a pitcher who could rise quickly through the Phillies' system, and the club seems to be hoping that he can make his major league debut at some point next season.

Consider that 2013 top overall pick Mark Appel made his Double A debut last Wednesday, making 22 starts in A-ball before the Astros promoted him.

Neris promoted

The newest righthander to get a look in the Phillies' bullpen is 25-year-old Hector Neris, who was called up from Triple A to replace Phillippe Aumont after Saturday night's loss.

Neris was left off the 40-man roster this offseason, but he has a live arm that resulted in some big strikeout totals in the lower levels of the minors. In 29 games at Triple A this season, he has a 4.67 ERA with averages of 6.7 strikeouts, 2.8 walks and 0.8 home runs per nine innings.

Brown out

Leftfielder Domonic Brown was out of the starting lineup for the fifth straight day. He is battling a throat infection.

The absence comes just as the second-year regular appeared to be finding his swing for the first time all season. In his last 24 games, Brown is hitting .284/.329/.419 with two home runs, 16 strikeouts and five walks in 79 plate appearances.

Joseph surgery

Catching prospect Tommy Joseph will undergo season-ending wrist surgery.

Joseph was acquired from the Giants in the Hunter Pence trade in July 2012 but has logged just 355 plate appearances in the two years since due to a variety of injuries, including a concussion that limited him to 36 games last year. Joseph hit five home runs with an .896 OPS in 87 plate appearances at Reading this year.

Gwynn re-signed

Outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr., who was released last week, was re-signed to a minor league contract and will report to Triple A Lehigh Valley.

On Twitter: @ByDavidMurphy


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