Phillies’ Ryan Howard Begins Rehab Assignment With Strong Performance for BlueClaws

Photos: Philliedelphia/Frank Klose

It was a sight so familiar but also so very different.  Ryan Howard returned to his old stomping grounds at First Energy Park in Lakewood, New Jersey to begin his rehab assignment as he works his way back to the Phillies.  Howard is still a fan favorite from his dominant 2002 performance which led to the team retiring his #29 jersey last year.

Not wearing his familiar #29 and larger than his time in Lakewood – perhaps the #52 jersey he wore was all they had that fit – we did see a great deal of the old Ryan Howard.  Howard's personality returned, his batting stance, as did his productivity.  Howard served as designated hitter and did not play the field.

Note: I'm going to recap Howard's at-bats mainly; I am sure you and I do not recognize many of these names or are invested in the victory.


Batting in his familiar cleanup spot in the lineup, Howard did not bat in the first inning as the BlueClaws went 1-2-3.  Howard's first at bat was a groundout up the middle to shortstop.  The Power used the familar shift we have become so accustomed.

His second at bat in the fourth inning, Howard lined a single up the middle, which advanced Aaron Atherr to advance to third base.  Atherr would go on to score on a Chris Duffy sacrifice fly.

In the fifth inning, Alejandro Villalobos lead off with a strikeout, followed by Kyrell Hudson who popped out.  Kelly Dugan followed with a single.  Aaron Altherr walked.  This brought up Ryan Howard with two on, two out.  A wild pitch advanced both runners; Howard had two runners in scoring position with two outs.  He came through, lining a ball up the middle that caused the Power's shortstop to drive.  Howard legged it out for an infield single and both Dugan and Altherr scored to give him two RBI.

In the seventh inning, Howard would strike out swinging to end the inning.  But in the ninth inning, Howard was part of a comeback which led to a walk-off celebration for the BlueClaws.

The ninth inning was eventful.  Brock Stassi pinch hit and walked.  Kyrell Hudson followed with a double and Stassi went to third.  Kelly Dugan walked to load the bases.  Aaron Altherr flied out for the first out, unable to produce any runs, and Ryan Howard stepped to the plate with the bases loaded.

Howard came just a couple feet from ending the game with a grand slam.  Instead, he would settle for a sacrifice fly to bring Lakewood within one.   Chris Duffy would follow with a two-out single that plated Hudson and Dugan, and Lakewood had a walk-off victory, 7-6.


A few observations:  

First, yes, Howard is heavy. However, I don't see how any of us would NOT gain weight if we were unable to walk.   He should shed the weight as time goes on.

Second, Howard runs with a bit of a limp.  When he talked to reporters in Philadelphia yesterday, he said he was going to "give 100% of 85%" and that he might not be back to normal until next season.  With such a serious injury, I am sure running could be challenging.  But, he did leg out an infield single and should still be able to contribute.

Third, Howard's bat looked good.  Aside from his strikeout, he made a lot of solid contact up the middle.  The sacrifice fly in the 9th was to the opposite field.  These may not be major league pitchers, but these were 19 and 20 year old kids with lively arms probably scared to death to face Ryan Howard.  It was a good sign.

So, all in all Howard went 2-4 with 3 RBI and a sacrifice.  Not a bad start to a 20-day rehab assignment.  How cool would it have been though if he had cleared the fence for a walk-off grand slam?

Here are a few other sights from tonight's game:

Recognize this manager?

Pregame workout


Beer selection.  They also had $1.00 Coors Lights in center field.




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