April 06, 2017
Despite the fact that he was working hard in the offseason, Ryan Howard had yet to latch on with an MLB team by the time Opening Day rolled around. And while he won't be in the majors right away, the Big Piece will be playing baseball again for an organization he is familiar playing against.
The Braves have signed Ryan Howard to a Minor League deal. He'll go to extended Spring Training and then likely join Triple-A Gwinnett— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) April 6, 2017
Throughout his career, Howard has destroyed the Atlanta Braves to the tune of slashing .280/.362/.935 in 757 career plate appearances.
Even in the minors, it will be strange to see the 37-year-old slugger playing for anyone other than the Phillies, the organization that drafted him in the fifth round of the 2001 MLB Draft.
This past offseason, the Phillies declined the 2017 option on Howard's contract.
Howard recently bought a house in the Atlanta area. So, he'll be close to home while he's playing for Gwinnett.— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) April 6, 2017
If you're hoping to see Howard in the Delaware Valley it's probably going to be a while: Triple-A Gwinnett doesn't visit the Lehigh Valley IronPigs until late July and it's almost a certainty Howard will not be patrolling the minor leagues for three months. It's also unlikely Howard makes the jumps for extended spring training to Triple-A to the Braves roster by the time Atlanta first arrives at Citizens Bank Park two weeks from tomorrow.
The best guess at a possible Ryan Howard homecoming? The Braves return to Citizens Bank Park on Friday, July 28.
Of course, there is no guarantee Howard returns to the big leagues. His contract with Atlanta, again, is a minor-league deal and he will have to produce in Gwinnett before he'd get an opportunity to play against his former team.
“Just a no-risk proposition for a player with good makeup who was excellent in the second half last season,” Braves general manager John Coppolella told the Atlanta Constitution-Journal. “He’s in good shape and has been training and waiting for an opportunity.”
The Phillies gave the former MVP a memorable sendoff in the season finale in South Philly last October.
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