Ryan Howard files defamation lawsuit against PED accuser

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Ryan Howard files defamation lawsuit against PED accuser

Ryan Howard has backed up his threat.

He is suing the Al Jazeera network.

The Phillies' slugger filed a defamation suit Tuesday night in Federal District Court in Washington, D.C. The suit (complete document here) was filed against the Al Jazeera network and two reporters who worked on a documentary that connected Howard and several other professional athletes to the use of performance enhancing drugs.

Washington Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman was also implicated in the report. He also filed a defamation suit in Federal District Court on Tuesday night.

Washington attorney Andrew H. Herman filed the lawsuit on behalf of Howard.

The suit contends that Al Jazeera "publicly smeared" Howard.

"This is a suit to redress an unjust injury to the public image and reputation of Ryan Howard, which have been damaged by outrageously false and defamatory statements recklessly published by Al Jazeera. ... The defendants publicly smeared Mr. Howard with false and unsubstantiated allegations of performance-enhancing drug use," the 25-page suit states.

The Al Jazeera documentary, which focused mostly on NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, aired last week. The report centered on the claims of Charles Sly, who at one time was affiliated with an Indianapolis-area anti-aging clinic. Sly made his claims while being secretly videotaped by a representative of the network. Sly began backpedaling from his comments even before the report aired and has since recanted his statements.

The report alleged that Manning received PEDs as he was recovering from neck surgery in 2011. Manning has strongly denounced the report and denied any wrongdoing.

The report also stated that Howard received PEDs. Howard denied those allegations to the network before the documentary aired. According to the suit, Howard's legal team warned the network not to broadcast lies about its client. The network stood by its report, which included the allegations against Howard. William Burck, a member of Howard's legal team, called the allegations “outright lies.” Burck followed up with a letter to Al Jazeera demanding a full and immediate retraction of the report. A week after the letter was sent, Howard filed lawsuit on Tuesday night.

"Today I authorized my attorneys to file suit against Al Jazeera and its reporters," Howard said in a statement Tuesday night. "Their irresponsible reporting forced me to take this action to protect my name and to fight back against the spreading of these lies. I will have no further comment, as the filing itself contains all I need to say."

PEDs have been an issue in baseball -- all sports for that matter -- for more than a decade. Accusations and denials are not uncommon. What is uncommon is an accused baseball player filing suit against a media outlet. Howard and Zimmerman may be the first to do so. Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong once sued a London newspaper over PED allegations.

Tuesday's lawsuit is another strong denial of any connection to PEDs by Howard. By filing suit, he is opening himself up to discovery and the possibility of having to testify under oath in a court of law.

Howard, 36, was the National League rookie of the year in 2005, its MVP in 2006 and a World Series champion in 2008. Once one of the game’s most feared sluggers, his production has waned since he ruptured his left Achilles tendon on the final swing of the 2011 NL Division Series.

Howard is nearing the end of his run with the Phillies. His contract is guaranteed through just 2016 at a staggering $35 million -- $25 million in salary with a $10 million buyout of the 2017 season.

Yankees 3, Phillies 2: Jeremy Hellickson shines; big roster meeting on deck

Yankees 3, Phillies 2: Jeremy Hellickson shines; big roster meeting on deck

BOX SCORE

TAMPA, Fla. -- With his second straight opening day start coming into focus, Jeremy Hellickson delivered his best outing of the spring on Friday.

The right-hander, two weeks shy of his 30th birthday, held the New York Yankees to five hits and a run over 6 1/3 innings. He walked one and struck out three.

Hellickson was remarkably economical with his pitches, throwing just 75.

"I'll take that any time," he said.

So would Pete Mackanin.

"He was great," the manager said.

Hellickson will have one more tune-up -- Wednesday -- before his opening day start April 3 in Cincinnati.

"I'm ready," he said.

And that about says it all.

The game
The Phillies lost, 3-2, when reliever Michael Mariot gave up three hits and two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Tommy Joseph had a pair of hits, including the Phils' only extra-base hit, a double.

Freddy Galvis made a couple of nice plays in the field.

"He just shines out there," Mackanin said.

Joseph, the Phillies' first baseman, was involved in a humorous play in the fifth inning. Hellickson made a pickoff attempt on Aaron Hicks at first base. Hicks dived back toward the base but seemed to get stuck in the infield dirt and came up about a foot short of the bag. Joseph, sensing Hicks would easily beat the throw, didn't immediately notice that Hicks was grounded short of the bag and by the time he did, Hicks was able to scurry to the bag.

As fate would have it, the next two batters hit tough ground balls to Joseph's right and he made close plays at second both times. He fired what looked like a 90 mph fastball at shortstop Galvis on the first one. Galvis even seemed shocked how quickly the ball got on him.

"We laughed about the pickoff play," Hellickson said. "But he made two really good plays after that. I told him he totally redeemed himself. That was funny, though."

Saunders OK
Michael Saunders was hit on the right hand by a pitch in the fifth inning. He left the game for precautionary reasons, but was fine. Just a bruise.

"Glancing blow," Mackanin said.

Roster ruminations
The Phillies leave Florida in a week. They have thinned their roster several times and did so again on Friday, optioning pitcher Jake Thompson and outfielder Tyler Goeddel to the minors and reassigning three others (see story).

An even clearer picture of the roster will begin to emerge Sunday as several non-roster players can opt out of their contracts if they are not added to the 40-man roster. That list includes catchers Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday, reliever Sean Burnett and outfielder Chris Coghlan.

Mackanin said the team would have a personnel meeting on Sunday.

"By Monday we should have some more news," he said.

Still unsettled are the bench and bullpen. Typically the team would have five men on the bench and seven in the bullpen, but Mackanin said the possibility of a four-man bench and an eight-man bullpen would be discussed.

"I don't want to do that, especially in the National League, but we're talking about it," he said.

The Phillies have a tight 40-man roster, and that could help Andrew Knapp's chances of making the club as a backup catcher/first baseman. He is already on the 40-man roster. Even if Knapp makes it, the Phils could bring along Hanigan or Holaday as a third catcher.

"That's a possibility," Mackanin said. "We discussed it at the last meeting. We're going to discuss it again on Sunday.

"We're trying to come up with the best plan for when we break, and a lot of it has to do with the non-roster players. If we make a move, someone has to come off (the 40-man roster) and that's an issue."

Up next
The Phillies travel to Fort Myers on Saturday to play the Red Sox. The game shapes up as another audition for a spot in the Phillies' bullpen as Alec Asher, Adam Morgan and Joely Rodriguez are the scheduled pitchers.

Phillies trim roster, send Tyler Goeddel, Jake Thompson to minors

Phillies trim roster, send Tyler Goeddel, Jake Thompson to minors

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- With a week to go before they leave Florida, the Phillies made several roster moves on Friday morning.

Outfielder Tyler Goeddel, who spent all of last season in the majors, was optioned to the minor leagues.

Pitcher Jake Thompson, who made 10 starts in the majors for the Phillies last season, was also optioned to the minors. He is expected to open the season in the starting rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Goeddel, 24, joined the Phillies organization in December 2015 after being selected in the Rule 5 draft. He had originally been a first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011.

Players selected in the Rule 5 draft must spend an entire season in the majors or be exposed to waivers and offered back to their original club. The Phillies kept Goeddel all of last season, fully securing his rights, but he received only 213 at-bats and hit just .192 with four homers and 16 RBIs.

The news on Goeddel was not completely surprising. The wintertime additions of outfielders Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders had made Goeddel a long shot to make the team.

"I knew going into camp I was going to have to earn my spot," he said. "There's a lot of guys in here that have been playing well. Whatever happened, happened."

Goeddel needs to recoup some at-bats in the minor leagues. The question is: where? The Phillies have three top outfield prospects -- Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and Dylan Cozens -- who will require regular playing time at Triple-A. It's possible that Goeddel could open the season at Double-A.

Team officials discussed that possibility with him.

"They want me to get more at-bats," Goeddel said. "That's the main thing. Only getting 200 in your age-23 season is not enough.

"They said there's a chance I'm at Reading. I'm not too happy about that but you can't control it. That's where their most openings are and most consistent playing time.

"I want to play every day. It was tough last year playing sparingly. Getting at-bats is going to be great. Obviously, I wish it was up here. But at the end of the day, you can't control it."

Goeddel is still on the 40-man roster and as long as he stays on it can come back to the majors quite easily if a need arises.

"They said that," Goeddel said. "Last year (pitcher Alec) Asher started at Double-A and was called up. They said that in there. They just want me to get at-bats. That was their main thing."

Thompson could be one of the first to return to the majors if a need arises in the starting rotation.

The 23-year-old right-hander was one of five prospects that the Phillies acquired from Texas for Cole Hamels in July 2015. He went 11-5 with a 2.50 ERA in 21 starts at Triple-A last season and 3-6 with a 5.70 ERA with the big club.

The Phils also reassigned pitcher Dalier Hinojosa, catcher Logan Moore and infielder Hector Gomez to minor-league camp.