October 4, 2011
ST. LOUIS - Home for Ryan Howard is a basement full of dented drywall where the balls blasted through the netting of a makeshift batting cage. It is the athletic fields behind Lafayette High School, where he used to leave football practice in the middle, once or twice a week, and trot across the grass, take off his helmet and his jersey, pick up a trombone and practice with the marching band. It is Ballwin Athletic Association Field No. 2, where, as a 12-year-old, he once hit a ball that rocketed over the high chain-link outfield fence and over the parking lot behind it, a home run that hit a Red Lobster restaurant on the fly, 430 feet from home plate.
May 27, 2012 |
Die-hard Phillies fans, like me, hang on every pitch. We've filled Citizens Bank Park for seasons. When we can't get in, we stay glued to TV. We have every right to be worried about the team's standing, and even more of a right to be worried about superstar slugger Ryan Howard. Howard, who has had setbacks after his Achilles tendon surgery, doesn't belong just to the team's owners. He also belongs to the fans who pay his salary by buying expensive tickets and underwriting the stadium with public financing.
April 1, 2013 |
HERE'S THE THING about Ryan Howard. Even in a year in which he was essentially playing on one leg, in which he finished with career lows in batting average (.219), on-base percentage (.295), slugging percentage (.423) and at-bats per home run (18.6), he looked like the same, old slugger when it came time to drive in runs. With runners in scoring position, Howard hit .329/.441/.603, each of them far above his career averages, while hitting a home run every 14 at-bats. In fact, Howard finished with just three fewer RBI than the player who had replaced him in the cleanup spot while he recovered from offseason surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles', despite Hunter Pence having 148 more plate appearances.
March 26, 2011 |
CLEARWATER, Fla. - The man who Ryan Howard put out of a job in Philadelphia six years ago can relate to the pressure of being a team's power hitter. "I think the one thing you really learn to appreciate is when you have really good hitters around you, like [Chase] Utley and [Jayson] Werth," Jim Thome said. "That's the one thing I can say through my career. Having guys around you that are good players, they make you better, and you're pushing them to be better. " It was an interesting assessment from the slugger now in the twilight of his career with the Minnesota Twins, because we all know that for the last half decade Howard has been baseball's quintessential power hitter - with some sensational complementary parts around him. Despite only briefly being teammates with Howard, Thome has admired the Phillies cleanup hitter from afar.
June 29, 2012 |
LAKEWOOD, N.J. - Four hundred feet from home plate, where a large man wearing a powder-blue No. 52 jersey stood, was the No. 29 plastered on the center field wall with "HOWARD" arching over it. The man at the plate wasn't paying attention to that. The man at the plate was just trying to get solid at-bats against live pitching in the first game of his rehab assignment. The man at the plate was Ryan Howard - or at least the 6-foot-4 shell of the player Phillies fans came to know so well, and the shell of the man the Phillies hope will provide the necessary spark for a struggling team.
October 18, 2009 |
In a shocking development, a group of sportswriters went out to a bar in Pasadena, Calif., the other night. This isn't the start of a joke. We were sitting there having burgers and beers when the discussion turned to Ryan Howard. That's when things got weird - which is saying something when you're on the road with that crew. Weird is pretty much the default position. One of the scribes - someone I like and respect - said there are a "gazillion" first basemen he'd rather have than Howard.
August 3, 2011 |
DENVER - True story: Once upon a time, Kyle Kendrick ranked high enough in the Phillies' pitching pecking order that manager Charlie Manuel used him as his second starter in a postseason series. That one and only playoff appearance, against Colorado, did not go well for Kendrick. And it seems like ages ago that the Phillies left this city after being swept by a freakishly hot Rockies team in the 2007 National League division series. These days, Kendrick is the swing man on the best pitching staff in baseball, alternating between the bullpen and rotation depending on the health of the other guys in the rotation.
September 19, 2012 |
NEW YORK - Chase Utley and Ryan Howard remain the heart of the Phillies' batting order and they were the foundation for this franchise's run of success that started in 2007 and appears likely to end in 2012. But as the season winds toward its conclusion, it's obvious they are players in transition. After the Phillies took early batting practice Monday afternoon, Utley remained on the field and worked extensively at third base with coach Sam Perlozzo. Howard, meanwhile, fielded questions about a season that started with him on the disabled list after undergoing surgery to repair a torn left Achilles tendon and is ending with the first baseman in a terrible slump.
May 21, 2013 |
IN ADDITION TO righting their ship, the Phillies also must avoid taking on more water, a task that became more challenging yesterday when a couple of their stars were sidelined with injuries. Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard will both undergo MRIs today as the Phillies prepare to start a three-game series against the Marlins in Miami. At least for the moment, Ruiz' injury appears to be more significant. The catcher suffered a right hamstring strain while moving from first to third on a single in the second inning.
May 21, 2012 |
Ryan Howard felt a tiny pinch Sept. 18 when a team physician's needle penetrated the numbed surface of a left heel that had been throbbing red-hot for weeks. Within seconds, the syringe's milky mixture of cortisone and painkiller rushed warmly into the tiny, inflamed bursa sac at the base of the slugger's Achilles tendon. Howard and the Phillies were rolling the dice. They hoped the cortisone would ease the pain and, after a brief rest, return him to form for the fast-approaching postseason.