June 17, 2016
Tommy Joseph was penciled into the third spot of Pete Mackanin’s lineup on Friday night for the start of a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park against his hometown team, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
It is Joseph’s eighth straight start at first base. Since June 1, Joseph has started at first base in 14 of the 16 games the Phillies have played.
And just a week ago, before the rookie hit two home runs in a game at Washington, Mackanin brought veteran and former MVP Ryan Howard into his office and explained that he could no longer regularly bench the promising, 24-year-old slugger.
But, really, there is no longer a Ryan Howard Saga in South Philly because he’s now a bench player, and Joseph is the team’s starting first baseman, and no one has publicly or privately whined behind the scenes about it.
And, because of that, first-year general manager Matt Klentak said on Friday that he expects the 36-year-old Howard to play out the final 3 1/2 months of his Phillies contract in a Phillies uniform. He will not be released, but, he will instead be a member of the team's bench for the duration of the 2016 season.
“I don’t see why not,” Klentak said before his team took batting practice. “Pete makes out the lineup. Tommy is playing almost every day. As long as this current situation is working for everybody, I don’t see why we’d need to make a move.”
Throughout the last month, Mackanin has said on multiple occasions that he doesn’t like having to deal with the uncomfortable spot of benching Howard, a franchise icon who is whatever is smaller than a shell of his former self.
Howard has 10 home runs (second on the team), but is hitting .148 (which ranks 272nd out of the 272 MLB players with at least 125 plate appearances) with a .560 OPS (ranking 33rd out of 34 MLB first basemen with 125 plate appearances) and 59 strikeouts in 162 at-bats.
The way Klentak sees it, Howard is fine as a power bat off the bench for a rebuilding team. As we’ve written in this space multiple times in the last few weeks, there is no problem keeping Howard around as a reserve for the season’s final 3 1/2 months.
“It’s certainly something we can live with,” Klentak said. “I’m not viewing it as a distraction at all. I think the biggest reason for that is the way that Ryan has handled it and the way that Pete had handled it. And really the way the team around them is handling it. and if it’s not distracting to that group of people, it really shouldn’t be a distraction to anybody. And Ryan has handled it like a true professional. Pete’s communication with Ryan has been outstanding. I don’t view it as a distraction at all.”