Former Phillies slugger Ryan Howard to make Triple-A Gwinnett debut

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — After 13 seasons, 382 home runs and one World Series championship with the Philadelphia Phillies, slugger Ryan Howard will play his first game donning the uniform of another Major League Baseball organization Saturday evening.

The three-time All-Star — who signed a minor league contract with the Atlanta Braves on April 6 — will bat cleanup as the designated hitter for Triple-A Gwinnett as they take on the Pawtucket Pawsox at Coolray Field.

Update: Howard went 2-2 with a RBI, intentional walk and hit-by-pitch in the Braves' 5-2 win (See highlights).

Howard, 37, has participated in extended spring training games since joining the Braves. Barring injury, he will not find much playing time as the Braves' everyday first baseman at the big league level. That role is currently filled by Freddie Freeman, who finished 2016 as just the second Braves player in franchise history with 80 or more extra-base hits in a season (83), joining future Hall of Fame third baseman Chipper Jones.

If Howard proves he is healthy and can still hit for power, he could serve as a valuable bench asset for the Braves, who are currently in last place in the division behind the St. Louis native's former club.

Howard hit .196/.257/.453 with 25 home runs and 59 RBIs in his final season with the Phillies last year. 

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