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8/23/2013 12:05 A.M. ET

Phillies having Howard get in baseball shape

First baseman training in Clearwater with goal of being ready for 2014

PHILADELPHIA -- Don't bet on seeing Ryan Howard again until Spring Training 2014.

The first baseman is recovering from left knee surgery in July, and it became clear on Thursday that the Phillies see little point in rushing him back to play a handful of games at the end of the season.

"Counterproductive," interim manager Ryne Sandberg said. "At this point, counterproductive. We're talking about his health, getting healthy and getting strong, and having the offseason ahead of him. You don't want any fallbacks or anything. I think until he gets into baseball shape, which is not going to happen between now and the middle of September or the end of September ... we'll have him get in baseball shape."

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. made a point recently to say Howard already had lost 15 to 20 pounds.

Generally, the feeling is Howard needs to be in better shape. That was why former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel played Howard in 14 games in 14 days in Spring Training.

"I know he's on an extensive workout program there in Clearwater, [Fla.]," Sandberg said. "He's going to be living there. Things are set up for him to work out the way that he needs to work out, and get in shape and be ready for the first day of Spring Training, ready to go."

Howard has started baseball activities in Clearwater, which involves hitting, fielding and jogging.

"Basic stuff," Sandberg said. "Whether that's on schedule or whatever, I think it's pretty normal. It's a good sign of where he's at. He was here maybe four games ago and he looked good. For me, I think Ryan, from here forward and the offseason, it's about getting into the top baseball shape he can be in. He was hampered some with the injury and I don't know if he ever got back into true baseball shape.

"With him being healthy and having the whole offseason and Spring Training ahead of him, I think he can get to that. Baseball shape, getting trimmed up into a weight that's a playing weight, along with having his knee behind him. I think he favored that this year, not really having his leg strength all the time with his batting."

Asked what he can expect from Howard in the future, Sandberg said:

"He's older, but I would think he has something to prove and I think he wants to have fun and I think he wants to enjoy his career. To do that, you have to get yourself in shape and allow you to do that. I think that's what he needs to do.

"A guy like him in the four-hole, whether it's home runs or projected home runs, he still has a knack of getting RBIs. Even if he's not totally swinging the bat or hitting the ball out of the ballpark, he still gets RBIs in situations. Thinking ahead on what he would do -- getting in baseball shape, starting with that first -- ability and what the numbers are and those [things] will fall into place."

Bernadina gets first starting shot with Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- Outfielder Roger Bernadina hopes to take advantage of the opportunity he is getting from the Phillies.

He got his first real chance on Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park, where he started in center field against the Rockies. Bernadina signed with the Phillies on Wednesday after being released by the Nationals on Monday. He hit just .178 with a .517 OPS in 167 plate appearances with Washington after hitting .291 with a .777 OPS in 261 plate appearances last season.

"[The Phillies] showed all the interest for having me," Bernadina said. "And I've always like the Phillies' ballpark. I didn't have to think too much about it. I told my agent, 'I want to be a Phillie.' I'm excited about it."

Bernadina flied out in a pinch-hitting opportunity on Wednesday, but something about it impressed interim manager Ryne Sandberg.

"He opened up my eyes running to first base last night on a routine fly ball, the way he got around first base," Sandberg said. "I mean, he was moving pretty good. So, I'm anxious to see him in the outfield, see his arm, see his reads, and his at-bats and everything."

Bernadina is making $1.2125 million this season. He is eligible for salary arbitration in the offseason, which means the Phillies have a decision to make with nine players eligible for salary arbitration and the potential for 11.

Left-handers John Lannan and Antonio Bastardo ; right-handers Kyle Kendrick and Zach Miner ; infielder Kevin Frandsen ; and outfielders Ben Revere, John Mayberry Jr., Casper Wells and Bernadina are eligible. There is a chance right-hander Mike Stutes and left-hander Raul Valdes could qualify as Super Two players, which also would make them arbitration-eligible.

Pettibone dealing with shoulder inflammation

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies right-hander Jonathan Pettibone had an MRI exam on his right shoulder on Thursday, and he said it confirmed inflammation.

Pettibone will be shut down from throwing to give the shoulder more time to rest.

"It's going to be hard to get the proper rest and come back," he said, when asked about his chances of pitching again this season.

Pettibone said it could have been worse.

"It's nothing serious," he said. "It's just going to take time. They gave me six days at first, and it just wasn't enough. It's mild inflammation, but it never really went away."

Asche impressing with his work on defense

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies third baseman Cody Asche entered Thursday's game against the Rockies hitting .200 (13-for-65) with four doubles, two triples and nine RBIs.

The Phillies believe the hitting will come.

But Asche already has impressed defensively, showing some pretty good range.

"I see tremendous progress on his footwork out there, his reads on balls, his quickness, his reacting to the hops and getting the hop he wants," interim manager Ryne Sandberg said. "It looks like he's really worked on his glove play, just using the glove along with his strong accurate arm. It's a very true ball that he throws over there. It's got a lot on it. I've seen a lot of improving developments since I saw him in mid-February. He's come a long way."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.