Ryan Howard, laying down on the job again. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
In a clear and obvious sign of declining health and the ravages of age, first baseman Ryan Howard will not be in the lineup for Friday’s Grapefruit League game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte.
All that talk you heard about Howard being “healthy,” and all that conversation about a “comeback year” for the not-so-young slugger, can now go by the wayside.
Manager Charlie Manuel was forced to give his hulking slugger a day off after only 14 straight days of playing meaningless, exhibition baseball.
Guys, if we can’t get our superstar first baseman, you know, the guy making A QUADRILLION DOLLARS THIS YEAR, to play EVERY SINGLE GAME FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE, then what good is he?
Of course, Charlie Manuel is going to protect his players. That’s what he does. He’s going to cover for the incessant whining and moaning from guys who INSIST on not playing every inning of every single exhibition game on the Phillies schedule. That’s why he’s telling everybody that Howard was always scheduled to have Friday off, like it’s some sort of company holiday or something.
"“I decided that about two weeks ago,” Manuel said. “I wasn’t going to tell you guys.”"
Oh, Charlie. You and your secrets.
Seriously though, it was unusual to see Howard play in so many consecutive spring training games, especially games that required long bus rides. Those are games veterans typically get to skip. And Howard, ever the good soldier, went on every long bus ride and played in every game in which he was scheduled, just like a consummate professional would.
"“First of all, I felt like we had to get him in shape playing in games,” Manuel said Thursday. “I picked a time and how much we wanted to play him. He had to play and get over some soreness and some things like that. His quads were sore and he feels better and he’s getting where we want him.“We want him healthy, but at the same time we’re not trying to kill him down here. We ain’t gonna kill him. Hard work never hurt nobody. He’ll be in shape but I’ll start monitoring him more. He will get some time off.”"
And it’s not like Howard was struggling either, off to a hot start this spring, hitting .364 (12 for 33) with six extra base hits, including three home runs and a team-leading 11 RBIs.
Yes, I used RBIs as a stat. Sue me.
Still, despite Howard’s impressive play, Manuel said the hulking slugger is still not in the physical shape he wants him to be in yet.
"“I’d like to see him in better shape,” Manuel said. “He’ll get there, too.”"
Well, giving him a day OFF certainly isn’t going to make that happen any faster, is it Charlie?
But hey, Howard had a good run. Fourteen consecutive Grapefruit League starts has to be some kind of record, right?
I mean, who plays in 14 straight spring training games? Maybe guys with a number in the 70s on their back, but certainly not guys making $20 million this year.
So, for now at least, Cal Ripken’s record is still safe. The folks in Aberdeen, MD can stand down
Ryan Howard is finally getting a day off.
What a slacker.