5/4/2014 9:19 P.M. ET
Now healthy, Howard returning to form at plate
By Todd Zolecki and Austin Laymance / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard says he's still playing catch-up after missing much of the last two seasons due to injuries to his left leg, but the Phillies first baseman is showing signs of returning to form as one of the top sluggers in the National League.
Howard is hitting .255 with six home runs and 17 RBIs in 28 games this season, putting him on pace for 34 homers and 98 RBIs. He hasn't approached those numbers since 2011, when he played 152 games and helped the Phillies reach the postseason.
While Howard is off to a good start offensively this season, he's not content with the results.
"It's still a work in progress," he said. "I'm trying to progress every day and just try to get a little more comfortable."
Howard has certainly looked more comfortable at the plate this year. On Saturday, he slugged a three-run homer to left-center in the first inning. When Howard is going deep to the opposite field, it's a good sign for the Phillies.
"Yeah, just trying to get good pitches," Howard said. "I was able to put a good swing on it. It just kept carrying. Had some good backspin on it. ... Just trying to put good swings on balls. Not trying to do too much. Just take what they give you."
The Phillies will take what Howard has given them so far.
Sandberg goes above and beyond to get to park
PHILADELPHIA -- Ryne Sandberg had a difficult time getting to Citizens Bank Park on Sunday.
Philadelphia had its annual Broad Street Run, in which tens of thousands of people run down Broad Street from North Philadelphia to the Navy Yard. Broad Street obviously is closed for the event, which can cause some travelling issues. Sandberg thought he had everything covered, only to learn he did not.
"I jumped in an Uber car and said, 'By the way, Broad Street is closed,'" Sandberg said.
The driver took Sandberg down I-95 South heading to the ballpark, but missed the Packer Avenue exit. The next thing Sandberg knew he was at the airport.
"Now I'm hoping that he makes a u-turn, gets back on and goes all the way around to the east again, but he punched in something else that gave him directions," Sandberg said. "So before you know it, I was a mile west of the stadium and it was a parking lot. So I jumped out, not too happy about it, so I walked a mile."
But he still had to cross Broad Street with a steady stream of runners running to the finish line.
"It was a full crowd, full-strength runners at that point," Sandberg said. "No gaps. I talked to the policeman, 'I got to get to the stadium.' Got my briefcase and everything. He goes, 'Well, you want to risk it, kind of get with the runners and get across.' So I actually ran about 50 feet with the runners."
Adams feeling strong as Phils try to stabilize 'pen
PHILADELPHIA -- The bullpen has not been a strength for the Phillies this season, but a healthy Mike Adams should go a long way toward improving a unit that entered Sunday with a 4.99 ERA, which ranked last in the National League.
Adams had arguably his best performance of the season on Saturday, striking out two during a perfect eighth inning to bounce back from a rough outing in the eighth on Friday, when he allowed three runs to surrender a lead. The right-hander reached 92 mph with his fastball, a good sign as he comes off shoulder surgery last July.
On Sunday, he got a big out in the eighth inning, helping the Phillies hang on for a 1-0 victory over the Nats.
Adams said the increased velocity was a result of his arm feeling looser and wanting to atone for Friday's struggles. But he added that his surgically repaired right shoulder feels better than it has in some time.
"It's completely different," Adams said. "Now the shoulder isn't even a worry at all. Not a single day do I come in here and say, 'How is my shoulder going to feel?' I mean, there are days when I feel a little crappy, but that's normal. I felt that way even when I was healthy. Compared to how I felt when I started throwing off the mound to now, it's not even a question."
The Phillies need Adams to help solidify the back end of the 'pen. He hasn't allowed a baserunner in four of his six appearances this year and has a 0.75 WHIP, which is tops among the team's relievers.
Outside bullpen options limited for Phillies
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies bullpen has been battered most of the season, but outside help is limited.
Of course, former All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan had been available until Friday, when the Tigers signed him to a $1 million contract with up to $2 million more in incentives. Hanrahan is recovering from Tommy John surgery and might not be available until June.
"We talked to his agent," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Sunday morning at Citizens Bank Park.
Amaro declined to elaborate, but either the Phillies were not comfortable with Hanrahan's price tag or they simply were not interested.
"It's well worth the gamble for us," Tigers team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "Joel's a well-established big league pitcher that can pitch in the back end of the game. We think he can stabilize our bullpen situation when he's able to do so."
Kevin Gregg is available. He had a 3.48 ERA in 62 appearances last season with the Cubs. Ryan Madson remains unsigned, although he has not pitched in the big leagues since 2011 because of elbow problems. Madson had been seeking a big league contract during Spring Training, but buzz around baseball is he might not pitch again.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jalaymance. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.