Manager: Ryan Howard not guaranteed to get at-bats this season

ESPN logo
Saturday, February 20, 2016

Ryan Howard may be the longtime face of the Philadelphia Phillies, but he'll be a platoon player -- at best -- if he doesn't hit.

That's the message that manager Pete Mackanin gave reporters on Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park, and that's what he'll tell the slugger when spring training begins.

"It's going to be a difficult situation," Mackanin said, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. "But decisions have to be made. And I have to do what I think is best for the organization and the team."

Howard is entering his 12th and most likely final year with the Phillies, the only team he has known. He has belted 357 home runs and driven in 1,135 runs. But the former rookie of the year and MVP has hit below .230 in three of the past four years. He had a .418 OPS in 100 at-bats against lefties last season, so Mackanin likely wants to see Darin Ruf play more. Ruf had a 1.107 OPS in 114 plate appearance against lefties last season.

"I'm going to make that decision in the spring," Mackanin said, according to the newspaper. "But I'm going to have a discussion with Ryan. I'm going to tell him, 'If you want to face lefties, you have to hit them better. If you don't hit them better, I'm going to platoon.' That's basically what we're looking at. It's gotten to that point."

The 29-year-old Ruf, however, had a .483 OPS in 171 at-bats against righties last season.

"He would hit better against right-handers if he got more at bats consistently against them," Mackanin said, according to the Inquirer. "But that means you'd have to go all-in with that kind of solution, and we still have Ryan Howard to consider."