Slugger Ryan Howard is looking forward to learning how to play the outfield. (Al Behrman/AP)
PHILADELPHIA -- Basking in the thrill of his first Major League home run last Sunday, Ryan Howard was jokingly asked about his long-term plans, such as someday entering the 700-homer club, joining Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron.
"That's a long way off," he said. "I shouldn't think about that."
With one swing against a 17-mph wind swirling in from center field on Saturday, Howard climbed within 698 of the hallowed club. His game-tying, pinch-hit home run in the seventh inning gave the Phillies new life against the Expos.
"The ball was crushed," said Bobby Abreu of Howard's long ball. "There was a lot of balls hit into the wind that didn't go anywhere."
Howard arrived in Philadelphia after swatting a combined 46 homers between Double-A and Triple-A. The power-hitting sensation hit the always memorable first homer on Sept. 11 in a pinch-hitting role against the Mets.
"He's impressive," said manager Larry Bowa. "I don't think there's going to be many parks that will hold him."
Howard's 48 (combined) clouts are more than anyone in professional baseball this year. Like most power hitters, he'll strike out his share of times (eight in 22 at-bats this season). Unlike some power hitters his size, he crouches at the plate. Bowa said he reminds him of a young Mo Vaughn.
Ryan Howard / 1B
Weight: 230 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L
"He gets right down there, and he can really drive the ball the other way," Bowa said.
Howard has started one game at first base, and he entered another after Jim Thome left with an injury. Batting as a pinch-hitter has been an adjustment for Howard.
"It's different in the sense that you know you're getting one chance, and I try to make it work for me as far as getting in there and being real focused and trying to get a hit," he said. "You're taking everything and putting it into one at-bat."
Howard is off to a great start, hitting .364 (8-for-22) with three doubles, three RBIs and four runs scored in his first 11 Major League games. He is 4-for-7 with both homers and all three RBIs as a pinch-hitter.
Surgery unlikely for Burrell: It's looking more and more like Pat Burrell won't need offseason surgery on his left wrist. Though he's hit .208 with five homers since coming back on Sept. 3, the important thing is that he's been playing without pain.
Burrell still tapes his wrist before games, but he doesn't wear a brace.
"He said he feels great," said Bowa. "We'll see have to see what the doctor says."
Foreign territory: Relief pitcher Todd Jones wants it known that his other time on base -- while with the Astros in 1995 -- was quite a feat.
"A standup double," Jones said, recalling that instance with a laugh.
Jones found his way on base in the seventh inning on Sunday, thanks to a walk by Expos reliever Joe Horgan. As pitchers often do, Jones found great pleasure in getting aboard.
"It's like high school, if you strike out, you're supposed to, and if you get on base, you want to have some fun with it," he said.
Jones used Jim Thome's helmet, but he had to borrow Todd Pratt's bat.
"I wasn't going to let him use my bat," joked Thome.
Philling In: Infielder Shawn Wooten won't accompany the team to Florida and Montreal because of an abdominal illness. He will be re-evaluated this week. ... Felix Rodriguez, who left the team on Saturday to attend his grandmother's funeral, is expected to rejoin the team on Tuesday in Miami. ... The Phillies topped three million fans for the 2004 season on Sunday, marking the first time the team has reached the plateau since 1993.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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