02/28/2013 7:18 PM ET
Howard already rounding into game shape
First baseman is hitting .533 with five RBIs through six spring games
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- There is being in shape and then there is being in baseball shape.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is getting Ryan Howard in baseball shape. Howard started his sixth consecutive Grapefruit League game Thursday in a 10-5 victory over the Braves at Bright House Field. He went 2-for-3 with his first spring homer, a double and two RBIs. Overall, he is hitting .533 (8-for-15) with three doubles, the home run, five RBIs, two walks, two runs scored and three strikeouts.
Six starts in six games is unusual for an everyday player at the beginning of camp, but Howard missed a lot of time last year following left Achilles surgery, so Manuel wants to make sure his first baseman is ready to play come Opening Day.
Howard said he is not trying for a Grapefruit League participation award.
"I'm out here doing what I have to do," Howard said. "[Manuel] talked about going out there and -- I don't want it to sound bad -- but being out there, being able to play in game-shape, getting my game legs. Right now, I'll keep running out there. Hopefully one day [I'll get a day off]. We have a couple of days built-in."
But Howard is swinging a good bat, which is encouraging.
"I'm just going out there, swinging," Howard said. "I think when I was going well before, that was the same thing. I think in recent years I was overanalyzing it, trying to do too much with it. Now, I'm trying to take it back to the basics."
His health also is improved, which has helped.
"It's a lot different when you get a full offseason to train and build up the muscles," Howard said. "Obviously, it's a lot stronger than where it was last year. The difference is it's a lot better."
Hamels has little trouble with new Braves lineup
CLEARWATER, Fla. - The Braves acquired B.J. Upton, Justin Upton and Chris Johnson this winter.
They replaced Chipper Jones, Michael Bourn and Martin Prado.
Does that make them a better team?
"I think they definitely maintained it, and probably got a little more balanced," Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels said, after allowing one unearned run and striking out five in three innings on Thursday in a 10-5 victory over the Braves at Bright House Field. "It's hard to replace a guy like Chipper, he's a Hall of Famer. He was a big part, a big key to the Braves for years. But I think with the guys they got, they are going to be balanced and they're going to hit you on all cylinders. So we have to come out and play at the top of our game."
The Braves are a free swinging team, so Hamels should get his share of strikeouts against them this season.
But that doesn't mean things will be easy.
"Yeah, it's kind of like what we were in '07 and '08," Hamels said. "You might strike us out, but we'll come back and fire a couple home runs back to back to keep things interesting. They have just the speed and the power you need to be a top-echelon team."
Adams makes spring debut earlier than expected
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Setup man Mike Adams hasn't had any health concerns since he showed up at camp this month.
But Phillies officials probably didn't mind seeing him make a successful Grapefruit League debut on Thursday in a 10-5 victory over the Braves at Bright House Field. Because Adams had thoracic outlet syndrome surgery in October, Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee had originally planned to push Adams' debut into the first week of March, as there is no reason to rush him. But Adams told Dubee he could go earlier. So, he did.
"To me, it's not a big shock with how I feel right now," said Adams,who allowed one hit and struck out one in one inning. "There was no reason medically why we were holding out. It's more of me really not wanting to throw 15, 16 innings in spring. I'm just glad that they worked with me on that."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.