Ryan Howard: Phillies' send-off was so good that people thought I retired

Ryan Howard: Phillies' send-off was so good that people thought I retired

When Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins were traded by the Phillies, they didn’t get to say farewell to the fans.

But the Phillies didn’t want to make the same mistake with Ryan Howard.

The Phillies wanted to honor Howard appropriately in his final game at Citizens Bank Park, and the send-off was so good that many fans thought the first baseman retired.

Howard and his wife, Krystle, would get approached by fans saying: “Great career,” he told Fox Sports.

But, Howard, 37, a former National League Rookie of the Year and MVP, isn’t ready to watch games from the couch just yet. He’s training and waiting for a call from a team that will pick him up from the free-agent market.

“I think I can still go out there and compete and compete at a high level,” Howard told Ken Rosenthal. “I understand that I’m not going to play every single day. With the way that the game has changed, with teams having analytics and all that, I understand all that stuff.”

Howard is coming off of a five-year, $125 million contract, but he said he’s setting no financial expectations.

It's quite obvious that he won't be the old Howard that hit 45-plus home runs four consecutive years, but he did improve after the All-Star break last year, batting .262 with a .932 OPS.

Howard’s best role would be as a DH against right-handed pitching. Last year, he hit 24 homers in 327 plate appearances against right-handers.

Howard said he would be “open” to becoming a DH after spending 13 years as a starting first baseman. It's realistically his only role at this point given his defensive decline.

“I look at it like, ‘Teams are doing what they’re doing. I got it,’” Howard said. “I’m not going to sit here and stress out because that doesn’t do me any good. It’ll happen. And when it does, I’ll be ready.”

To continue playing, Howard may have to sign a non-guaranteed, minor-league deal and earn a job in spring training, like Jimmy Rollins did last year with the White Sox and hopes to do again this season with the Giants.

Phillies getting good reports on catching prospect Jorge Alfaro

Phillies getting good reports on catching prospect Jorge Alfaro

Jorge Alfaro, one of the Phillies' most highly regarded prospects, is off to a big start at Triple A Lehigh Valley.
 
He entered Wednesday night's game hitting .377 (23 for 61) with a 1.003 OPS in his first 15 games. He had a double, two triples, three homers and 10 RBIs. Team officials would surely like to see the strikeouts (17) come down and the walks (1) go up, but no one is complaining about the production.
 
"I just looked at his numbers," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He's doing very well — knocking the cover off the ball."
 
Alfaro, 23, is widely considered the Phillies' catcher of the future. He's an athletic talent with huge upside. Many scouts believe he could be an All-Star if he puts it all together.
 
Defense is the area where Alfaro needs the most work. Yes, he's got a "howitzer" for an arm, as Mackanin called it, so that doesn't need much work. But there's a lot more to catching than throwing. There's game-calling, receiving and blocking.
 
Alfaro made a cameo with the big club last September and did not impress club officials with his receiving or blocking. Instructors focused on improving those areas in spring training, and Mackanin reports that Alfaro has shown progress in the early season.
 
"We get a complete game report on what everyone does offensively and defensively," Mackanin said. "Apparently he looks very good defensively.
 
"He had some issues defensively. He wasn't getting down enough and he worked on that all spring. He's a big guy and it's a little more difficult for a big guy to get low.
 
"And we wanted him to just be a little more quiet behind the plate, less movement. He had a tendency to be moving while the pitcher was getting ready to pitch. We just want a guy sitting back there nice and quiet with a good target. That might seem pretty elementary, but if you're not concentrating on doing that you might not realize the importance of it.
 
"He's doing well blocking balls. He's doing everything well right now and hitting on top of it, so that's a nice sign."

Clay Buchholz optimistic he can still pitch in 2017 after surgery

Clay Buchholz optimistic he can still pitch in 2017 after surgery

Pitcher Clay Buchholz made his first appearance in the Phillies' clubhouse Wednesday since having surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right forearm last week.  

Many initially believed Buchholz would be out for the remainder of the season -- and he still might be -- but he expressed optimism and believes he can return to the mound in September.

"My goal right now is to let this heal," Buchholz said. "Get it well and if this team keeps playing like they're playing right now, we'll be playing in September, October, so that's my goal."

Buchholz said he wasn't feeling 100 percent leading up to the April 11 game against the New York Mets when manager Pete Mackanin pulled him in the third inning. 

"I told [general manager Matt Klentak] that I was sorry, and the guys in here," Buchholz said. "I was brought here for a reason. I wanted to pitch, I wanted to be good. I guess it's a good thing we have a good farm system here because they've been able to step up and fill in."

Buchholz had a similar issue with the Boston Red Sox in July 2015 and missed the rest of the season. 

In his two starts with the Phillies, Buchholz allowed 10 runs and 19 baserunners over just 7 1/3 innings. 
 
Buchholz, 32, will become a free agent at the end of the season. Given his age and the possibility that he won't return this season, the injury could significantly affect his value heading into the offseason. He's the second-highest paid player on the Phillies' roster at $13.5 million

But Buchholz wants to build the strength in his forearm and continue to pitch in MLB following this season.

"There's a lot of guys that come back," Buchholz said. "I have a lot of buddies that played this game that have come back from major surgeries and played for eight or nine more years. It's all about once I do get healthy, being prepared and building a strong foundation around my muscles."