Ryan Howard's Day Off
On Tuesday night, Ryan Howard jumped out of character. It was 10 seconds of his life that he probably wish he could erase.
Howard tried to Wednesday, when manager Charlie Manuel gave him a mental and physical rest, leaving Howard out of the lineup. It's not a decision Manuel makes lightly: Howard has started 158 games in each of the previous two seasons.
But Howard needed a break, not just because he lost his cool at umpire Scott Barry (who probably deserved Howard's tirade, too). But Howard needed a day to step out of the batter's box and into the cage to reconnect with his swing.
When you return after missing three weeks on the DL, Howard said, you can get a little antsy at the plate.
"You're seeing pitches, your adrenaline kind of gets going and sometimes you want to do too much," Howard said after Wednesday's 3-2 defeat to the Astros. "Your mind and your eyes are so far ahead that the rest of your body, you’re trying to catch up. For me, it’s getting back into that comfort zone. It’s kind of like spring training all over again."
So Howard tried to take a step back in order to take a leap forward. He didn't hit with the team in batting practice; instead he worked inside the cage.
“I just went and kind of cleared the head a little bit, went down in the cage and did a little work in the cage, and just tried to find it, get my rhythm back, get my timing back and just seeing the ball," he said. "I wasn’t really seeing the ball real well. I just want to go out there and try to do that.”
Entering Wednesday, Howard was 2-for-19 with 10 strikeouts since coming off the DL. In Tuesday's 16-inning marathon, he tied a Phillies record by striking out five times in a game.
In back to back games, Howard was 0-for-11 with eight strikeouts.
Although Manuel intended to give his cleanup hitter the day off Wednesday, he called on Howard in the ninth inning of a one-run game. While he didn't tie the game with a home run, Howard single through the left side of the infield.
"I made contact," he said.
Baby steps. Howard, who was hitting .292 with a league-best 81 RBIs before he went on the DL, took on step Wednesday.
As for the near-fight with an umpire less than 24 hours earlier?
"I just let it go," Howard said.