And on the 15th day, Iron Horse Howard will rest

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And on the 15th day, Iron Horse Howard will rest

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Ryan Howard has started all 14 of the Phillies' games this spring. That includes an intrasquad game and a contest against the Dominican Republic.

On Friday, he will get a day off.

Well, sort of.

Howard will work out in Clearwater while the Phillies send a team down I-75 to play the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte.

Manager Charlie Manuel has been riding Howard hard early in camp.

"If you're going to play 162 games, you've got to get in shape to play 300," Manuel said.

Manuel, of course, was kidding about playing Howard in 162 games. He’ll get days off during the season. But Manuel is serious about having Howard come into the season ready to go, especially after the slugging first baseman missed all of spring training and half of the regular season last year as he recovered from a torn left Achilles tendon.

“I felt like we had to get him in shape,” Manuel said. “He’s getting to where we want him. Hard work never hurt nobody. He’ll be in shape. I’ll monitor him and he’ll get his time off.”

Howard is having a good spring, hitting .364 with three homers and 11 RBIs.

Bullpen competition to heat up
Pitching coach Rich Dubee believes his pupils in the bullpen have had enough time to get loose in side work and games.

Now it’s getting to be time to show something.

“The competition begins here pretty soon,” Dubee said. “They should have enough reps in the bullpen and in games to start locking it.”

Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo and Chad Durbin are assured bullpen jobs. That leaves three spots open. One of those spots seems to have Phillippe Aumont’s name on it. Another will likely go to a lefty such as Jeremy Horst, Jake Diekman or Raul Valdes. A cast that includes Mike Stutes, Aaron Cook, Justin De Fratus and B.J Rosenberg remains in the hunt, as well.

Horst hasn't had positive results in early work, but Dubee hasn’t forgotten the good work (1.15 ERA in 32 games) he did in half a season in the majors last year.

Ruf breaks out
Darin Ruf, who had been searching for hits, had a single, a double and three RBIs in Thursday’s 10-6 loss to the Twins.

“He’s going to be a really good hitter,” Manuel said. “I’ve seen guys struggle before. I don’t worry about that.”

Twins terror
Twins switch-hitter Aaron Hicks improved his chances of being his team’s opening day centerfielder by hitting three home runs off three different Phillies pitchers. The Twins traded two big-league centerfielders this winter. Denard Span went to the Nationals and Ben Revere to the Phillies.

Pitching news
Righthander Tyler Cloyd, who had been bothered by some forearm tightness, threw on the side Thursday.

Up next
Here is the Phillies' lineup for Friday’s game against the Rays in Port Charlotte:

Freddy Galvis SS

Kevin Frandsen 2B

Michael Young 3B

Carlos Ruiz C

John Mayberry Jr. 1B

Darin Ruf LF

Domonic Brown RF

Josh Fields DH

Michael Martinez CF

Kyle Kendrick starts for the Phillies again Rays’ lefty David Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young winner.

Adams, Stutes and Cook will also get work for the Phillies.

Phillies tender contracts to 3 players as Cody Asche becomes free agent

Phillies tender contracts to 3 players as Cody Asche becomes free agent

The Phillies tendered contracts to three arbitration-eligible players on Friday night and set another free.
 
Reliever Jeanmar Gomez and infielders Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis were tendered contracts for the 2017 season while outfielder Cody Asche was let go after four seasons with the club. 
 
The Phillies signaled their intention to let Asche go when they designated him for assignment, a move that removed him from the 40-man roster, on Friday afternoon. The club had the option of trading Asche — and likely had discussions with other clubs — but ultimately decided to non-tender him before the 8 p.m. deadline. The move made Asche a free agent.
 
The Phils had removed Asche from the 40-man roster to clear a spot for David Rollins, a left-handed reliever who was claimed off waivers from Texas on Friday (see story)
 
Galvis and Hernandez, the team’s regular shortstop and second baseman, respectively, were certain to receive contracts for 2017. Gomez was less certain. He saved 37 games for the Phils in 2016, but struggled badly late in the season.
 
Phillies officials will try to negotiate 2017 salaries with all three players. If an agreement cannot be reached with a player, an arbitration hearing will be held later in the winter to determine that player’s salary for the coming season.
 
Gomez made $1.4 million in 2016, Galvis $2 million and Hernandez $525,000. According to mlbtraderumors.com, Gomez projects to make $4.6 million in arbitration, Galvis $4.4 million and Hernandez $2.5 million. 

The Phillies' roster is full at 40.

Phillies DFA OF Cody Asche, claim LHP David Rollins off waivers

Phillies DFA OF Cody Asche, claim LHP David Rollins off waivers

Cody Asche's time with the Phillies has come to an end.

The Phillies claimed LHP David Rollins off waivers from the Texas Rangers on Friday. To make room on the 40-man roster, Asche was designated for assignment. The Phillies had until 8 p.m. on Friday to tender a contract to the outfielder, but they instead chose to free up the roster spot for Rollins.

Asche played four seasons with the Phillies from 2013-16 after he was drafted in the fourth round in 2011. The St. Charles, Mo. native had a .213/.284/.350 batting line this past season over 71 games. His best season with the Phillies came as their starting third baseman in 2014, hitting 10 home runs and driving home 46 runs in 121 games.

Rollins has been on four different rosters this offseason. He pitched 31 games in relief for the Seattle Mariners over the last two seasons, sporting a 7.60 ERA over 34 1/3 innings. He was claimed off waivers by the Chicago Cubs 15 days after the World Series and then subsequently claimed again by the Rangers. 

Rollins was a 24th round draft pick by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2011 MLB Draft and was traded a year later to the Houston Astros. Prior to the 2015 season, the Mariners picked Rollins in the Rule 5 draft after the Astros chose not to protect him.