2012 Spring Training

The Pros and Cons of an Early Return for Howard

PHOTO: Todd Zolecki

We already know that Ryan Howard is ahead of his projected recovery schedule. Earlier today, Ruben Amaro Jr. said: (via Todd Zolecki)

“I don’t know how realistic it is. We all like to try to be optimistic. But as far as I’m concerned, if he comes back sometime in May, I’m happy. Ryan’s rehab is going well. He’s going to have good days. He’s going to have some not-so-good days. But he’s doing well, and that’s all we can ask. It’s a process we’ll let play out. We’re not in any rush to get him back.”

But imagine this: At some point in Spring Training, Ryan Howard is given the ‘OK’ to play again. He eases his way back into the swing of things and eventually finds himself 100% healthy by Opening Day. What would the Phillies do? What should they do? What would be the pros and cons of such a twist?

First, this unlikely scenario would present a few problems for the Phils. Remember, Ruben Amaro spent time and money this off-season compensating for Howard’s expected absence. Additions like Jim Thome, Ty Wigginton, and even Laynce Nix were signed because of the hole that Howard will leave. Those were three quality additions which, with the inclusion of  John Mayberry Jr., would create a clog at first base.

Let’s evaluate the pros and cons of an early Howard return for each player…

Jim Thome

Pro: Thome cannot play everyday anyway, and the less innings he sees at first, the better it is for the Phillies.

Con: Thome was brought in mainly to be a big left-handed bat off the bench, filling in at first base at most a few times a week. If Howard comes back by Opening Day, the second part of Thome’s role would all but be eliminated. He would be relegated to  Ross Gload‘s role of the last two years, Matt Stairs‘ old role before him. This would be bittersweet, as we all want to see more Thome.

Ty Wigginton

Pro: There will not be any positives for Wigginton or the Phillies if Howard comes back. He is best suited for a large role on a team, not as a bench player.

Con: Wigginton will most likely be the Opening Day first basemen. He is a versatile infielder–5,000-plus innings at third base, 1,900 innings at first and nearly 1,300 innings at second. He also has over 1,000 innings played in the outfield, which would make him an option to fill in there. But if Howard is ready to step in, Wigginton would most likely be relegated to the bench as a super-sub, which is a role he hasn’t necessarily filled in recent years.

Laynce Nix/John Mayberry Jr:

Pro: Mayberry gets more innings in the outfield, which would give the Phillies more opportunities to score runs.

Con: Nix is an outfielder, who has a total of nine innings in the infield — all at first base — in his nine-year career. Still, Nix would be affected by Howard coming back because in Howard’s absence, Mayberry would likely get some innings at first, which would in turn give Nix more time in the outfield. But if Howard is healthy, Mayberry would stay put in the outfield and Nix would get less innings and plate appearances, which isn’t totally bad, but isn’t good either.

The last thing the Phillies want is for Howard to be rushed back. They also don’t want to wait for him to get in the groove at the plate while Wigginton, Nix and Thome sit on the bench. So if he comes back early, it would most likely be a negative for the Phillies, because he would take a few weeks to get into back to where he was at the plate before his injury.

As hard as it might be to wait until mid-May to see Howard at the plate, an earlier return would create a sticky situation for the Phils.



  1. George

    February 24, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    I think you’re overstating the “cons.” These guys won’t have that much to do when Howard does come back, be it in April or May. Theye were signed as fill-ins/platoon players to begin with, and I’m sure there will be other places for them, be it substituting for Utley or Polanco when they need rest, pinch-hitting, spelling Victorino, who always seems to have leg issues once or twice per season, or replacing injured players. I also believe that Howard, when he does come back, will be handled very carefully and be given numerous days off from playing defense.

    These guys will be used, otherwise they wouldn’t have been signed in the first place.

    • Ryne Duren

      February 25, 2012 at 10:36 am

      i agree george! if howard is healthy and able to play, i would rather have him in the line up than any of those bench guys! who’s to say that ,same with utley. if their injuries had anything to do with their drop in ops against lefties that they wouldn’t revert back to hitting lefties as they did in the past if they were both healthy.

  2. betasigmadeltashag

    February 24, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    I have to agree with George. Also if Ryan is truly 100% recovered, I know that probably will not really happen until 2013, but say he is then there would be no cons of having him back, the bench players you mentioned were signed to be bench players, maybe Platoon a little with JMJ if he continues to struggle against righties, but with the age of this team Charlie really needs to look at resting these guys on a regular basis, and the bench being the strongest it has ever really been is only an advantage.
    If the question is should Ryan rush back to play 3 days our of 5 jsut to be on the field I would say no, that would hurt the team because, and I am not a doctor, I making sure that he can go 5 days in a row before bringing him back would be the right thing to do, not that you would play him 5 days in a row, but his legs have to be ready to. Because if the last 2 seasons have taught us anything it is that it is better to be playing into the playoffs instead of resting into the playoffs.

  3. bacardipr05

    February 25, 2012 at 12:54 am

    I dunno i suppose they have the best of the best Doctors on this. I think the Phils and their pitching should be ok without him for a while. Dont want to rush him back until the Doctors and staff are sure beyond a reasonable doubt that rushing him back wont be detrimental. I say even if they think he is ready to go in April sit him out till May. No need get him starts in Spring Training although im pretty sure he wont. He said he feels like he is at 40% that is kind of low. I say late May as a about target date for his return. Howard is a notoriously slow starter and with this set back i wonder how this will go for him/us.

  4. Jaron B

    February 25, 2012 at 2:53 am

    What if we said he returns about 3 weeks into the season… that’s probably the earliest he could come back? I’d say that’s fine, but I’d rather him be 125% when he comes back: 3 extended spring starts, enough Lakewood starts to get his strength back (Utley needed 9), and 5 consecutive Lehigh Valley starts (perhaps more) after a travel day and a rest day to work on pitch counts and the curveball. When he is called up from AAA, he will then rest the day he arrives (but should be able to PH) and get no more than 5 consecutive starts for the next 2-3 weeks. Then, he should rest about once a week. Thome should be the primary backup to 1B after the 9 DH starts and Wigginton and Mini-Mart would relieve the utility guys regularly. Keep Brown and Galvis in AAA until September: unless all other viable options in AA and AAA are exhausted, do not call them up. In September, Charlie can give the 30-year-old-plus guys two consecutive days off, but not too much time. It might be in the Phils best interest to let a NL East team win a wild-card spot.

  5. Vandermille

    February 25, 2012 at 3:41 am

    Agree with most statements above. Also- Wigginton is so versatile that he can relieve Chase or even Polly if either is feeling bad on any given day. I think that’s the biggest reason he is such a good addition to the Phils.

    Charlie loves his handed-ness matchups too, and I think that whatever combo he wants to roll with will adjust nicely to locking in on opposite-handed pitching, Let’s be honest here- do you think Nix, Thome, or Wigginton signed on thinking that they were going to be anything long term but a role player?

  6. Ted Bell

    February 25, 2012 at 3:43 am

    Before we get too wrapped up in an unlikely scenario, remember that this is week one of spring training and every injured player is “ahead of his rehab schedule”. They’re also in “the best shape of their careers”. The Phillies own Kevin Frandsen has been through this injury and issued a word of caution. I’d be shocked if Howard plays before Memorial Day.


    I’m Ted Bell.

    • Ryne Duren

      February 25, 2012 at 10:44 am

      well hi there Ted Bell! how the heck are you? you are so right!i i would rather see him play after he’s givin the go and then some rehab games in the minors to be sure he gets into baseball shape. anybody who’s ever played baseball can tell you that no matter how much you work out, and say you’re in geat shape, when you get out on the field and drill, amazingly you’er sore! It’ crazy! happened to me when i was much younger. i would work all winter to get and stay in shape and come practice time ! ouch! lol ( of course i didn’t play pro ball but i took my softball very serious)

    • Ryne Duren

      February 25, 2012 at 10:47 am

      hey ted i didn’t realize it till after my reply to your post that your picture is very interesting! lol did sharks actually name a week after you?

  7. Bob in Bucks

    February 25, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    This is just silly. IF Howard is good to go then suns getting less playing time is good. Duh!

    Doubt it will happen until late April in any case.

  8. brooks

    February 25, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    I am thinking June, the first of June that Ryan will be back and I think that is OK.
    It gives the following a chance to be brought into light, once and for all.
    First: We get to see what the club can do without the “Bopper” in the middle of the lineup. If he misses 2 full months to start the season off, you’ll have Junior with some time at first, perhaps Nix, maybe Wiggington but I am thinking that (secondly) Wigs will spend more time relieving the IF issues. Lets not forget that in his 14 year career, Poly hass been able to appear in 140 games (or more) only 5 times. He will spend some time on the DL – that you have to count on. Utley & Jroll have been frequenting the IR more often in the past few years. Wiggy will be in a significant amount of games playing IF. Not so much 1b, but 3rd, short and 2b. And lastly, hopefully, we will see if Brown can offer anything in LF while Howard is out and Jr takes
    . Plus, as a bonus, we get Juan Pierre.
    All should be interesting without Howard the Phils will be in the middle of the hunt, with him they will take the NL East –
    Brooks Speak

  9. Joey Spagna

    February 25, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Thd’ need Howie that bad. They got the best starters in MLB because they also have the 2nd highest payroll. One guy won,t make much difference.

    • brooks

      February 26, 2012 at 10:31 pm

      You believe what you want Joey, let the facts speak for themselves.
      When June comes along make a note of where the Phils are.

  10. Andrew from Waldorf

    February 26, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Wilson Ramos. Heard of him?
    He is a once kidnapped defensive catcher for the Nationals.

    He scrored 48 runs in 385 at bats last year.

    Yea Brooks the Phillies cant do without the contracts 48 runs.

    Oh the horror.
    Phillies nation continues to crack me up.

    Sad part is the phillies GM is as bad as the chucks and beta and Donny moron.

    I still wonder what the negotiations where?
    What did Howard give back? LOL
    He asked for 50 million per year and the genius talked him down to 25?

    Oh how they need him.
    Pay him more

  11. Joey Spagna

    March 11, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    I think they should let Wiggy do his thing. I’d love to get wiggy with it on Helen Mirren.

  12. Anna Benson

    March 28, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Joey, I got wiggy with Wiggy when he was a rookie and my husband was in the bullpen warming up. Wanna hear more?

    • Joey Spagna

      July 9, 2012 at 9:10 pm

      Tell me more honey.

  13. Online Dating

    April 24, 2012 at 4:34 pm

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