Results tagged ‘ platoon ’
Ryan Howard noshed on a burrito bowl as he stood in front of his locker and discussed his future on Wednesday at Great American Ball Park. He knows this is likely his final season with the Phillies, and he knows he is likely to spend it as a platoon player.
He seems at peace with the situation.
“You understand that this is the game, this is the business,” Howard said before a game against the Reds. “You understand the team has talked about going in a different direction and stuff like that. You understand that.”
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin started Darin Ruf at first base on Wednesday against Reds left-hander Brandon Finnegan, two days after Mackanin had Ruf pinch-hit for Howard in the eighth inning against left-hander Paul Cingrani. Howard as a platoon player has been a topic of conversation for some time, but the Phillies have waffled in the past.
“Yeah, without question I’m going to continue to do it,” Mackanin said. “Like I told Howie, you know, Darin Ruf did so well against lefties (last season) I think he deserves an opportunity to see if he can make a little bit of money, too. I think if (Howard) keeps his head on straight and settles into it, I think he’s going to hit righties better. I’m looking for a big year from him because of it.”
Howard did not bristle as reporters questioned him about it Wednesday. He coolly discussed his situation.
He would have been far less willing to talk about it last year.
“I just don’t let things bother me anymore,” Howard said. “Last year I let things, I let a lot of things kind of surprise me. And now it’s like, it is what it is. You just continue to stay positive. The situation is what the situation is. You can get down about it, you can get upset about it or what not. Or you can try to make the best of the situation, when the opportunity comes.”
Howard is entering the final season of a five-year, $125 million contract. The Phillies have a club option for 2017, but they are expected to exercise a $10 million buyout instead. They have tried to trade him, but have found no takers.
So in the meantime, they hope Howard and Ruf can be a productive platoon at first base. There is reason to think they should be. Howard hit .256 with 20 home runs, 67 RBIs and an .802 OPS in 396 plate appearance against righties last season, while Ruf hit .371 with eight homers, 22 RBIs and a 1.107 OPS in 114 plate appearances against lefties.
“Could be dangerous,” Howard said of the platoon. “That’s what they’re banking on.”
Conversely, Howard posted a .418 OPS in 107 plate appearances against lefties, while Ruf posted a .483 OPS in 183 plate appearances against righties.
“Obviously it’s something that’s been talked about for however many years,” Howard said. “So it’s not really a surprise. You know, I guess Pete had his mind made up that this is what he was going to do. But it’s the situation we’re in right now. And I want Ruff to be able to go out there and tear it up. And when I get my opportunities, be able to go out there and tear it up. And just see what happens from there.”
Howard had been one of the best power hitters in baseball from 2005-11. He helped the Phillies win one World Series, two NL pennants and five NL East titles. He won the 2006 NL MVP and the 2005 NL Rookie of the Year Award. He is the greatest first baseman in franchise history
But after injuries and a drop in production since 2011 this is probably it.
“I wouldn’t say this is probably it,” Howard said. “I mean, it’ll probably be it in Philadelphia. There’s always that realization. There is no hiding that. But, like I said, you just try to enjoy it. Just really want to try and enjoy it, whether it’s here, whether it’s somewhere else, just, for however long it is that you get to play, take time to be able to reflect at times on what I’ve been able to do, what I’ve been able to accomplish. But, you know, right now I’m just staying in the here and now. It’s Game 2. Be ready today when my name is called and go out there any other time it’s called.”
Sandberg drove home that point soundly today, as he benched Howard in favor of Darin Ruf for a second consecutive game, but this time against Giants right-hander Tim Hudson. That is noteworthy because Howard has faced Hudson more than any other pitcher in his career, hitting .328 (22-for-67) with seven home runs, 17 RBIs and a 1.112 OPS against him.
“The way I see things,” Sandberg said before their 2-1 victory over the Giants, “I basically wanted to give Ruf two days in a row, just to get his feet wet, see him against a right-handed pitcher, then go from there. But in all likelihood, at least after today, it will be a scenario of … I’d be considering a platoon system at first base.”
The p-word has been uttered: platoon.
Sandberg and Howard held a closed-door meeting in the manager’s office for at least 10-15 minutes about three hours before the game. Howard was unavailable to comment afterward. He made a bee line to the back of the Phillies’ clubhouse upon leaving Sandberg’s office. He returned to his locker to grab his cell phone before going outside the clubhouse to make a call. The clubhouse closed almost immediately after he returned.
Howard had no interest in commenting about his situation after the game.
“Talk to him,” he said after the game, referring to Sandberg. “Bye. Talk to the manager.”
Asked if Howard was receptive to his talk, Sandberg said, “He wants to play and he wants to be in the lineup and that’s totally understandable. So as we go forward and there are some options on some days, then I’ll look at those options.”
It does not take a genius to see the 2006 National League Most Valuable Player is not happy.
If Sandberg follows through and platoons Howard and Ruf it would make Howard, who signed a $125 million contract in April 2010, a part-time player with $60 million owed to him after this season. What that means for Howard’s future remains to be seen. Sources said the Phillies have kicked around multiple scenarios regarding Howard’s future, including the possibility of releasing him in the offseason.
It would seem to be an awkward situation for Ruf, who is trying to prove himself as a regular big-league player. But he said he will not let the spotlight bother him as he is asked to take an iconic player’s place in the lineup.
“Ryan is a great player,” Ruf said. “He’s going to be counted on to help this team win in the last two months hopefully. If we can share a role in making that happen, or he becomes the player that he once was and that we know he can be, and if it’s my opportunity I’ll just look forward to proving I can be that guy, too.”
Ruben Amaro Jr. was unavailable to comment on Howard’s situation and future with the organization.
“Ryno wants to be in there,” Sandberg said. “I totally expect that, so we’ll go forward and make up lineups.”
There just won’t be any guarantee Howard will be in them.
The streak ended at 665 games Tuesday at Globe Life Park.
Ryne Sandberg dropped Howard to fifth against Texas left-hander Martin Perez. Marlon Byrd hit fourth, splitting up the left-handed-hitting Chase Utley and Howard. Sandberg split the lefties with Byrd four times in Spring Training, a strong indication he would make the move in the regular season.
“He’s the manager,” Howard said. “I don’t make the lineup. Whatever the lineup is, that’s what the lineup is. As far as spots and stuff, wherever my name is, that’s where I’m supposed to hit.”
Sandberg made other platoon-type moves, playing John Mayberry Jr. in left field and Jayson Nix at third base instead of Domonic Brown and Cody Asche, respectively.
“I’ve talked with him about it,” Sandberg said about Howard. “I’ve talked to him a couple of times about that, the reasons for it. I noticed in the Spring Training games – I think he had four or five – two of those games he had two hits and he had one hit in the other. So he had some success there. The fifth spot is still an RBI spot with men on base. It’s a power spot. It’s still a good spot for him regardless.”
Howard deferred to the manager when asked about the change.
But does he have a preference?
“I don’t know,” he said.
There are reasons for the adjustment. The Phillies ranked 22nd in baseball last season against lefties with a .679 OPS, a number which must improve. Byrd had a .959 OPS against lefties last season, which ranked 13th out of 173 qualifying players in baseball. Meanwhile, Howard has a .602 OPS against lefties from 2011-14, which ranks 203 out of 213 qualifying players.
“Yeah, it’s noteworthy,” Howard said. “But at the same time … I’m not even going to go there. I really have nothing to say about it. I’m going to stay away from all of that. Just try to keep everything on the up and up. You say the wrong thing and then all of a sudden … people just misconstrue or whatever. That’s not what I want to have happen.”