Phillies' Howard and Utley making progress

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Phillies' Howard and Utley making progress

Ryan Howard will step up his injury rehab in the coming week and Chase Utley might not be far behind.

Howard has been cleared for baseball activities. He will travel to Florida on Sunday and shift his workouts to the Phillies training facility in Clearwater on Monday.

Utley, meanwhile, could join the Phils for workouts in the next week or so, according to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. Utley would spend a handful of days going through pre-game workouts with the club and being evaluated by the teams athletic training staff before heading to Florida to increase his baseball preparation.

Amaro cautioned that neither player has had a spring training and that it will take time before both are ready for major-league game action. But, Amaro did concede that were seeing a little bit of a light at the end of tunnel.

Howard had surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon in October then another surgical procedure in late February to clean out an infection that developed after a suture from the initial surgery failed to dissolve properly.

Utley has been slowed by a chronic cartilage issue in his knees, particularly his left knee. He has spent the month of April working with a physical therapist in Arizona and made good progress. Utley visited with his teammates in Phoenix last week and the smile on his face seldom seen in recent months confirmed that.

Hes done pretty darn well, Amaro said.

Howard will start off fielding ground balls and throwing. He will not hit for a few days, until he gets his legs under him, Amaro said. Everything that Howard does at first will be under a controlled setting. He will build toward getting at-bats and playing the field in extended spring training games, but there is no timetable for that. Howard has not done any running. He will have to work toward sprinting.

Utley missed the first 46 games with the same condition last season. He played in just nine minor-league games in Florida before being activated. Amaro indicated that Utley would need more than that this time.

Team officials will not estimate when Howard or Utley will be ready to play in the majors. Injury recoveries are just too unpredictable. Sometime in June is a safe, albeit broad, outside estimate.

E-mail Jim Salisbury at jsalisbury@comcastsportsnet.com

Ryan Howard's miserable May continues as Tigers out-power Phillies

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Ryan Howard's miserable May continues as Tigers out-power Phillies

DETROIT — Back when they were racking up National League East titles and filling Citizens Bank Park night after night, the Phillies could slug with anyone.
 
Those days are gone.
 
So even on a night when they got some power from two young up-and-comers in their lineup, the Phillies still couldn’t get enough to match up with the Detroit Tigers on Monday night.
 
“We don’t have enough pop to go blow for blow with them,” manager Pete Mackanin said.
 
The Tigers belted four home runs, three against starting pitcher Vince Velasquez, in beating the Phillies, 5-4, at Comerica Park (see Instant Replay).
 
Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph both homered for the Phillies, but Ryan Howard, no longer even close to the player he was during those aforementioned title years, slipped deeper into the May quicksand. He went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts to fall to .156 on the season. He is 4 for 48 (.083) in the month of May.
 
“Man, it’s been brutal,” Howard said after the game. “I’m not going to lie. I need some breaks, man. It’s been tough. I’ve hit some balls hard, but they’re not finding any real estate out there.
 
“I have to keep grinding and swinging. Luckily, it’s still early to get it turned around.”
 
Yes, it’s early for some guys.
 
But it might not be that early for Howard. He’s 36 and in the final year of his contract. His slump has coincided with Joseph’s ascension from the minors. Joseph played first base Monday night and looked good at the position. In addition to hitting a game-tying homer in the sixth, he had a double. Half of his six hits in his first seven games in the majors have been for extra bases.
 
Joseph will continue to play first base while Howard serves as the designated hitter in the final two games of the interleague series in Detroit. After that, Joseph is expected to start against lefty Jon Lester in Chicago on Friday. If he keeps hitting — and Howard keeps struggling — the situation could be ripe for Mackanin to continue to play Joseph, even against the right-handers Howard usually sees.
 
“I'm going to look at it a week at a time,” Mackanin said. “We'll see. At some point it might come to that, but I can't say it's imminent.”
 
If Howard starts spending more time on the bench, it will be part of a downhill progression that started in the second half of last season when he became a platoon player. Will a progression to the bench ultimately lead to his being released in the coming weeks? Well, if Joseph keeps hitting and continues to earn playing time, management may have to seriously ponder the move.
 
Even with Franco and Joseph hitting home runs, the Phillies didn’t have enough to match the Tigers’ thunder.
 
Miguel Cabrera belted two home runs and in the seventh inning clubbed his 500th career double. He then came around to score the go-ahead run on a single by Victor Martinez.
 
Entering the game, the Tigers were among the top teams in the American League in batting average (.265), runs per game (4.60), homers (56) and OPS (.758).
 
Meanwhile, the Phillies couldn’t get much lower in offense. They ranked near the bottom in the National League in batting average (.233), runs per game (3.23), homers (32) and OPS (.651).
 
“You look up and down their lineup on the scoreboard and it looks like everybody is hitting .300 with eight or 10 home runs,” Mackanin said. “It can be daunting.
 
“The middle of their lineup hurt us with the long ball. We knew they were swinging the bats well lately. They weren’t earlier. Now they’re swinging well and we couldn’t contain them.
 
“We got 12 hits of our own. But they’ve got a lot of power on that team.”
 
The Phillies are at the start of a challenging trip — three in Detroit followed by three against the Cubs in Wrigley Field. The Cubs have the majors’ best record. The Phillies, a surprising four games over .500, will be tested on this trip.
 
They did not pass the first test. Velasquez had trouble commanding his pitches and for the second straight start ran a high pitch count. He took a 3-1 lead to the mound in the fifth, but it evaporated quickly under the weight of homers by J.D. Martinez and Cabrera. Reliever Colton Murray also gave up a homer in the inning. He also allowed the go-ahead run in the seventh as Mackanin held David Hernandez back in case the Phils got a lead.
 
“Velasquez didn’t have any command of his secondary pitches, pretty basic stuff, and he left some fastballs over the plate,” Mackanin said. “You have to throw quality pitches to a lineup like this. If you make mistakes against them, they don’t miss. If you don’t command your secondary pitches against good hitters, they become like sharks and smell blood and hit the fastball.”
 
Velasquez said he should have gotten the loss, not Murray.
 
“You can’t shy away from hitters and I did that,” he said. “You’ve got to pitch inside. I pitched around them.
 
“I’ve got to do something about this. I’ve got to challenge hitters.”

With game on the line, Pete Mackanin benches his best player for lack of hustle

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With game on the line, Pete Mackanin benches his best player for lack of hustle

BOX SCORE

DETROIT — Phillies manager Pete Mackanin made a strong statement Monday night when he benched his best hitter in the seventh inning of a tie game.
 
With Odubel Herrera on the bench for the final innings, the Phillies went on to lose, 5-4, to the Detroit Tigers (see Instant Replay).
 
Mackanin did not regret his decision to yank Herrera and his team-high .335 batting average from the game.
 
“It’s important to me to set that tone,” Mackanin said. “When you don’t hustle, I’ve got a problem.”
 
Herrera had singled in each of his first three at-bats. He drove in the Phillies’ first run with a hit in the third inning.
 
But when he bounced back to the pitcher and took his time getting to first base in the seventh, Mackanin abruptly pulled him. Even Ryan Howard said something to Herrera in the dugout.
 
“He didn’t run,” Mackanin said. “One of the ingredients to our success to this point is the fact that guys play with energy and they play hard. We’re training them to play the game the right way and not running is not the right way.”
 
Herrera said he did not run because he was “frustrated” and “angry” with the at-bat. He said Tigers reliever Justin Wilson “got in his head” by varying his delivery times. Herrera even mentioned that Wilson quick-pitched him.
 
“The pitcher was playing with me,” he said. “I have to learn from it. I didn’t think [Mackanin] was going to bench me, but I understand why. I can’t argue. I was frustrated. I respect the decision. I know that I did wrong. I have to learn from my mistakes and it won’t happen again.”
 
Mackanin is a huge fan of Herrera. He has predicted the 24-year-old Venezuelan will someday win a batting title.
 
But Mackanin indicated after Monday night’s game that Herrera might be developing some bad habits — at least when it comes to the hustle that Mackanin values. The front office values it, too. Playing with “energy” is something the front office frequently says it wants to see, and the ability to get his players to play with energy is one of Mackanin’s strengths.
 
“I’ve seen it in the past and it’s been trickling in,” Mackanin said of Herrera’s occasional lapses in hustle. “I didn’t like it and I made the decision. He knows he should have run.”
 
Jonathan Papelbon put a chokehold on Bryce Harper’s neck last year in Washington for a similar transgression.
 
In the Phillies’ dugout Monday night, Herrera got a little talking-to from Howard.
 
“That was great to see,” Mackanin said.
 
Said Howard: “Doobie's got a lot of promise. He’s going to be around this game for a long time. He makes things happen. He brings energy to the game.
 
“The pitcher lost the grip and had to double-pump. If you’re running hard, maybe he makes a bad throw and you’re on base.
 
“I just told him, ‘You’ve got to keep going. I know it’s not the at-bat you wanted, but look at me, bro, I’m still out there grinding.’ If he’s running there, the pitcher could throw it away and he could be on second and we could squeeze a run out.”
 
Howard went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts to fall to .156 on the season. He is 4 for 48 (.083) in the month of May (see story).
 
Mackanin said his message to Herrera was complete. Herrera will be back in the starting lineup on Tuesday night.

Best of MLB: Cardinals top Cubs on Randal Grichuck's walk-off HR

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Best of MLB: Cardinals top Cubs on Randal Grichuck's walk-off HR

ST. LOUIS -- Randal Grichuck hit a tiebreaking solo homer in the ninth to lift the St. Louis Cardinals a 4-3 win over the Chicago Cubs on Monday night.

Matt Adams tied the score with a two-run homer off in the seventh for St. Louis' major league-leading ninth pinch-hit homer of the season. It also ended a streak of 13 innings of one-run pitching by Chicago starter John Lackey against his former team.

Grichuk drove a 2-2 pitch off of Adam Warren (3-1) for the win.

Trevor Rosenthal (2-1) pitched a scoreless ninth.

The Cubs' Ben Zobrist had three singles and a walk, extending his streak to 29 starts with reaching safely. He is hitting .387 during that span (see full recap).

Mets ride power surge to win over Nationals
WASHINGTON -- David Wright, Yoenis Cespedes and Neil Walker homered on the day Mets slugger Lucas Duda went on the disabled list, leading New York past the Washington Nationals 7-1 Monday night.

Pitching on the eve of his 43rd birthday, Bartolo Colon (4-3) allowed one run and five hits in seven efficient innings. Baseball's oldest player struck out two and walked two.

With Duda out at least four to six weeks with a stress fracture in his lower back, Mets manager Terry Collins acknowledged it will take a committee approach to replace his power. Point taken, as Wright hit a three-run shot off Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez (3-2) during a five-run third inning, and Cespedes and Walker went back-to-back in the fifth.

Asdrubal Cabrera also drove in a run with the Mets' fifth consecutive hit in the third, and fill-in first baseman Eric Campbell produced another with a sacrifice fly (see full recap).

Vogelsong carted off in Pirates' victory
PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Pirates starter Ryan Vogelsong was carted off the field after getting struck in the head by a pitch in the second inning of a 6-3 win over the Colorado Rockies on Monday.

With the bases loaded and Pittsburgh leading 1-0, Rockies starter Jordan Lyles (1-2) hit Vogelsong in the left cheek with a 92 mph fastball. Vogelson was making his second start of the season, filling in because of a rainout Sunday.

The Pirates later said he was admitted to the hospital for injuries to his left eye. Vogelsong was replaced by Wilfredo Boscan (1-0), who got the win in relief.

The Pirates took an early lead on Lyles and never looked back. Besides hitting Vogelsong, the right-hander walked three, allowed two stolen bases, threw a wild pitch and gave up six runs over 2 1/3 innings (see full recap).