Braves sign Ryan Howard to minor-league deal

Braves sign Ryan Howard to minor-league deal

It took until the first week of the season but Ryan Howard has finally found a team.

Howard on Thursday signed a minor-league deal with the Atlanta Braves. He'll head to extended spring training next week to get back into the swing of things and then will report to Triple A Gwinnett when he's deemed ready to go.

Howard was one of 111 major-leaguers who hit 20 or more home runs last season. Other than David Ortiz, who retired, Howard was the only one of those players not on a major-league roster.

It had seemed like his strong second half in 2016 -- Howard hit .262/.324/.608 with 13 homers and 32 RBIs after the All-Star break -- would land him a job with an AL team, but the opportunity never arose. It was a decent market for designated hitters this past offseason.

It's an interesting fit because Howard, 37, doesn't have a role with the Braves. The face of Atlanta's franchise is first baseman Freddie Freeman, who like Howard hits from the left side. Barring an injury to Freeman, Howard's best chance at playing time would be as a bench bat. But at this point in the MLB calendar, Howard obviously valued finding a team over finding the ideal fit.

In 13 seasons with the Phillies, Howard hit .258 with an .859 OPS and 382 home runs. His post-Achilles decline was sharp, but in truth, he was beginning to decline even before that. Since 2012, Howard has hit .226/.292/.427 with an average of 19 homers, 66 RBIs, 34 walks and 127 strikeouts per year.

Some of his best work came against the Braves. In 183 career games against Atlanta, Howard hit .280 with 52 homers and 155 RBIs.

Today's lineup: Tommy Joseph returns to lineup for Game 1

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Today's lineup: Tommy Joseph returns to lineup for Game 1

The Phillies' return from the West Coast will also include the return of Tommy Joseph to the lineup in Game 1 of their doubleheader against the Marlins.

Joseph, mired in a 5 for 56 slump, will be in the lineup after sitting the last two games against the Giants. For some strange reason, the right-handed Joseph has struggled mightily against left-handed pitching. He's hitting just .185 against southpaws this season vs. .254 against righties. Joseph will play first and bat fifth.

What will excite Phillies fans tonight is the three and four hitters. Rookies Nick Williams and Rhys Hoskins will bat in the three-hole and cleanup spot, respectively. Williams has struggled a little bit since his torrid start. He has just one extra-base hit in his last 42 at-bats. He'll start in center field while Odubel Herrera continues to nurse a hamstring injury.

Hoskins returns from his native California red hot. After getting just one hit in his first big league series against the Mets, Hoskins did some serious damage out west. The 24-year-old went 8 for 25 (.320) with five homers and eight RBIs during the seven-game swing. He'll get the nod yet again left.

Newcomer Hyun Soo Kim will fill out the outfield, playing right and batting sixth. Kim is just 5 for 33 since coming over from Baltimore in the Jeremy Hellickson trade.

Here is the rest of the lineup for Game 1:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Nick Williams, CF
4. Rhys Hoskins, LF
5. Tommy Joseph, 1B
6. Hyun Soo Kim, RF
7. Maikel Franco, 3B
8. Cameron Rupp, C
9. Aaron Nola, P

And here's how the Marlins will line up against Nola:
1. Dee Gordon, 2B
2. Giancarlo Stanton, RF
3. Christian Yelich, CF
4. Marcell Ozuna, LF
5. J.T. Realmuto, C
6. Derek Dietrich, 3B
7. Tomas Telis, 1B
8. Miguel Rojas, SS
9. Dan Straily, P

Phillies place Vince Velasquez on 60-day DL; call up reliever Yacksel Rios

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AP Images

Phillies place Vince Velasquez on 60-day DL; call up reliever Yacksel Rios

The Phillies have made a flurry of moves ahead of Tuesday's doubleheader vs. the Marlins.

Vince Velasquez (finger) is heading to the 60-day disabled list, effectively ending his season. He'll have surgery to repair a vascular issue with his right middle finger, according to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki.

Velasquez left his last start after just one inning on August 10 while surrendering three runs.

In 15 starts, Velasquez compiled a 5.13 ERA, while continuing to struggle with his command. The 25-year-old struck out 68 batters while walking 34 and averaged just 4.8 innings per start. 

In a corresponding move, the Phillies have called up RHP Yacksel Rios from Triple A to replace Velasquez on the 40-man roster. The 24-year-old has a combined 1.92 ERA in 37 games while splitting time between Reading and Lehigh Valley. 

Nick Pivetta was officially recalled from the minors to start Game 2 of today's doubleheader, while Zach Eflin (shoulder) was placed on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to Saturday.