07/14/12 8:02 PM ET
Halladay completes bullpen session
By Trey Scott / MLB.com
Howard working his way back at the plate
DENVER -- Ryan Howard has always been a bit of a slow starter, with a career .253 batting average in April and May. So it's not too surprising that in his first three games back with the Phillies this season, he's been slow out of the gate.After going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in a loss to the Rockies on Friday night, Howard entered Saturday with a .182 average. Chalk his early struggles up to ineffectiveness against left-handed pitchers -- 0-for-4 -- and nerves. "I was a little anxious, trying to make stuff happen," Howard said Friday night. "But I did calm down and felt good in my last at-bat." Facing Rockies starter Christian Friedrich, a southpaw, Howard struck out in his first two plate appearances, then drew a walk. In the eighth inning, he grounded out. "I take positives out of those at-bats," Howard said. Howard went 10-for-20 with a home run in seven rehab assignments before joining the Phillies on July 6. He got two hits off Atlanta righty Tim Hudson in his debut, but has gone hitless since. "He needs some more at-bats," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "It may take him a few games before he starts hitting like he can." Said Howard, "I've got to see some more lefties just to get comfortable. Now it's about getting back in the groove." Manuel noted that Howard's hitting mechanics are fine and that he doesn't have a problem pushing off his surgically repaired left Achilles. "He was just jumping a little bit last night, kind of jumping out," Manuel said. "He was having a hard time controlling his adrenaline. He'll be OK."
Shane Victorino started Saturday against the Rockies hitting in the No. 2 hole, the second game in a row he's hit there. Victorino, who entered with a .242 average, has spent much of the season hitting third and fifth."If he gets going, he can definitely help us," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We'll see. I'm not afraid to move my lineup around. If we get guys going, we can have a good lineup, and Shane's a big part of that. Hopefully, he'll start doing better." Victorino went 0-for-4 with a strikeout Friday night. Pitching coach Rich Dubee thinks left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo, who entered Saturday with a 5.34 ERA, is close to getting some confidence back. "He's one good outing away," Dubee said. "That could change his mindset ... I don't think he's had real confidence since September." Last season, Bastardo ranked 20th among qualifying National League relievers with a 2.64 ERA, and the Phillies are hopeful he can find that same level of consistency. "He's got to throw more strikes and throw more quality strikes," Dubee said. "To be good up here for a while you've got to be consistent." Relief pitcher Michael Schwimer gave up three runs in the seventh inning on Friday night, while managing to get just two hitters out. Dubee had a simple diagnosis of Schwimer's problems. "Did you watch the game?" Dubee said. "He's got stuff, but you can't pitch thigh-high." The Phillies entered their second matchup against the Rockies with a 3-11 record on Saturdays.
Trey Scott is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.