Aching Howard gets night off to rest sore knee

Aching Howard gets night off to rest sore knee

July 3, 2013, 6:15 pm
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PITTSBURGH – He sounded disappointed. He also sounded realistic.

Ryan Howard, who’s been battling pain in his left knee all year, is out of manager Charlie Manuel’s lineup for the Phillies’ game against the Pirates at PNC Park Wednesday night, one day after his 270-foot first-to-home dash aggravated his aching knee.

Howard, hitting .267 with 20 doubles, 10 homers and 42 RBIs, seemed surprised to hear at about 4:15 p.m. that he wouldn’t play in the second game of the Phillies’ three-game series against the team with the best record in baseball.

“I just saw Charlie in the hallway, and he just said I was out today, so I haven’t been able to give it that much time to process,” Howard said. “So I’m going to go do all my pre-[game] stuff and get some work in the cage.”

Howard seemed taken aback to learn that he wouldn’t be playing one day after he had two hits and the game-winning RBI in the Phillies’ 3-1 win over the Pirates.

“It was a little sore last night, but when I show up, and the lineup is made up, then that’s what Charlie feels like he’s got to go with that day,” he said.

“I’m sure he probably talked to the trainers. They talk every day. Like I said, I show up, Charlie’s the manager, he makes the lineup.”

Howard sat the first game of the Padres series that opened the 10-game road trip and the middle two games of the four-game Dodgers series. Factor in an off day Monday, and Wednesday night will be his fifth night off since the road trip started on June 24.

Manuel said he could tell watching Howard limping around after Tuesday night that he needed another day off.

“I can look at him and tell it’s bothering him by the way he walks,” Manuel said. “That (first-to-home) is a hard run for him, and his knee is worse some days than others.”

Obviously, the fact that the Pirates are starting a tough lefty – Jeff Locke (7-1, 2.06) – was also a factor in Ryan sitting Tuesday.

Howard is hitting .171 with a .509 OPS against lefties and .303 with a .883 OPS against righties.

“When Ryan’s knee is bothering him and a lefty is pitching, I think that’s a good time to give him a blow,” Manuel said. “That’s kind of what we’ve been doing. When he gets going good, we’ll put him back in there.”

But Manuel said right now the plan is for Howard to play Thursday afternoon and all three games against the Braves back in Philly, including Saturday against lefty Paul Maholm.

“He’ll be in there [Thursday] in the day game, and … against Atlanta I’ll more than likely see if he can play all three of those,” Manuel said.

Howard, who has 310 career homers, said the discomfort in his knee never goes away.

“It hurts every day,” he said. “It’s a process. It’s kind of like when I wake up, you’ve got to get moving around a little bit to kind of get it loosened up.

“So it’s always going to be a little stiff or a little sore. A lot of it comes from the pounding and the running. That’s where I feel it the most. That’s usually where it kind of comes into play.”

Clearly, Howard isn’t going to get better until the offseason, either by rest or surgery.

But he said that as of now, he feels like he can manage the discomfort, and he has no plans to shut down for the season, although he will have to take occasional days off.

“That’s definitely something that’s beneficial,” he said of the days off. “If I can still try and go out there and play, this is probably going to be the process that is taking place.

“I had the two days off in L.A. Usually after an off day it feels better and obviously being able to score from first after an off day, the pain level is … going to be different than trying to score from first after playing five or six games in a row.”

Manuel has John Mayberry in Howard’s spot at first base and batting sixth Wednesday. Domonic Brown, sixth in the majors with 21 homers, moves up from fifth to fourth in the lineup.

Wednesday’s game will be the 13th this year that Howard has not started. He’s played in 77 of the Phillies’ 84 games.

“Giving it a break every once in a while [helps],” he said. “Especially with the All-Star break coming up, where I’ll get some more days in a row to kind of get off of it and see how it progresses from there.”