MINNEAPOLIS – During his time in a Phillies uniform, Ryan Howard has been a Rookie of the Year, an MVP, a home run and RBI champ, an all-star and a World Series Champion. Though his time in Philadelphia is inching to the end with him filling a part-time role, Howard is still trying to make an impact.
He was one of a couple of players to speak up in the team’s regular pre-series hitters’ meeting before Tuesday’s opener against the Minnesota Twins.
The Phils had lost seven in a row and scored just nine runs in those games. Howard sensed the team was pressing. So he spoke up. So did Carlos Ruiz, the team’s other holdover from the 2008 World Series championship club.
Maybe it worked.
Though the Phillies won just one of three games against the Twins, the struggling offense produced 38 hits, including eight homers, and 22 runs in the series. Howard, who served as the designated hitter in the series, belted his 11th homer in Thursday’s series finale, a 7-3 Phillies’ win (see game recap).
Freddy Galvis, who had a career-high five RBIs on Thursday, said there were no maybes about it. The words that Howard and Ruiz spoke resonated with the group.
“We're young guys,” Galvis said. “Everybody wants to stay in the big leagues. Nobody wants to go back. Sometimes you put too much pressure on yourself, instead of just having fun and playing baseball and just letting it happen. That's what they talked about.
“It helped a lot, especially when you get some advice from guys like Chooch and Howie. They say, ‘Hey, don't worry, it's going to happen. We've been through hard times too and sooner or later it's going to turn around.’”
Howard said his message was simple: Relax.
“Obviously, Chooch and I have been through it all,” Howard said. “Guys want to go out and do well. Sometimes you just try to do a little too much. We just tried to offer some different words of encouragement to guys and try to get them to settle down.
“I think guys were able to kind of relax and we were able to put up some runs in this series. Hopefully we’ll continue it into the next.”
Howard had two hits Thursday. He had an RBI single Wednesday night, and though he is still hitting .150, he believes he benefitted from getting three days’ worth of regular at-bats.
“Just getting the flow and seeing some of the lefties,” he said. “Just kind of getting the feel back. It felt better.”
Tommy Joseph, who took over as the regular at first base earlier this month, was a late scratch because of illness Thursday. Maybe Howard will get a start at first base Friday night in San Francisco against Jake Peavy.
“It’d be great, but I don’t know what the game plan is going to be heading out to San Francisco,” Howard said. “I’m not even sure who’s starting. We’ll see. That’s up to Pete.”
Howard has kept a low profile since Mackanin decided to go with Joseph as his primary first baseman. General manager Matt Klentak has indicated that there are no plans to set Howard free. His final months with the Phillies will probably be spent as a bench player.
Howard does not like the situation. But he is not bitter.
“That’s always been my demeanor, just try to be upbeat, keeping positive and all that stuff," he said. "I understand what takes place in the game. I’ve been around the game for a long time. You have ups and downs. Right now when I get out there and play, I try to do what I can and try to help these guys learn and become better ballplayers.”