The initial diagnosis was a bruised knee, but Howard was forced to take a trip to the ER later Monday night after his condition worsened, according to interim manager Pete Mackanin.
“He had to go to the emergency room to get his knee drained, so that doesn’t look good,” Mackanin said. “But we’re just going to go day to day to see what happens.”
With just over two weeks left in the season, the chances of Howard playing again in 2015 are slim, especially when you consider his history with knee injuries. The 35-year-old is just two years removed from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in the same knee he injured on Monday.
“It’s a possibility,” Mackanin said about shutting down Howard. “Day to day could be eight days from now, so I don’t know for sure. We just don’t want to commit [if], three or four days from now, he says he feels fine. The thing with Howie that’s admirable is this guy wants to play. You’ve seem him over the years, he posts up every day, he’s ready to play every day. That’s a nice trait to have. So we’ll wait and see.”
Howard would join Cesar Hernandez on the Phillies’ recent season-ending injury list. The second baseman suffered a dislocated thumb during Sunday’s game against the Chicago Cubs that will require season-ending surgery.
The veteran first baseman had endured one of the roughest stretches of his illustrious 12-year career before the injury. Over his last 64 at-bats, Howard recorded just 11 hits, good for a meager .172 batting average. The stretch included an 0-for-35 drought, the longest hitless streak of his career. In the process, Howard’s season batting average dropped from .243 to .229, and is the mark the former MVP will likely finish with. If it is, the average would be good for the second-lowest mark of his career in a season where he recorded 400 or more at-bats. Overall, Howard would finish 2015 with a slash line of .229/.277/.443 with 23 home runs and 77 RBIs.
Darin Ruf will assume duties as the team’s every day first baseman in Howard’s absence. It’ll be the first time the 29-year-old will get a chance to play every day since the second half of the 2013 season, where he replaced Howard after his knee surgery. Ruf has played in 90 games this season, but has made only 46 starts. Overall, he is batting just .237 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs.
With Howard likely done for the season, the question is this: Has the first baseman played his final game in a Phillies uniform? Howard is set to earn another $25 million in 2016, and with a new general manager incoming, the new brain trust may elect to part ways with one of the franchise’s most esteemed sluggers if they’re unable to trade him.