7/24/2014 5:50 P.M. ET
Ryno mulling platoon at first with Howard, Ruf
Phillies manager says he will consider matchups, lineup options moving forward
By Todd Zolecki and Austin Laymance / MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard is the highest-paid position player in baseball this year, but Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said on Wednesday that Howard's salary will have little impact on future lineup cards.
Sandberg drove home that point soundly on Thursday, as he benched Howard in favor of Darin Ruf for a second consecutive game, but this time against Giants right-hander Tim Hudson. That is noteworthy because Howard has faced Hudson more than any other pitcher in his career, hitting .328 (22-for-67) with seven home runs, 17 RBIs and a 1.112 OPS against him.
"The way I see things," Sandberg said before their 2-1 victory over the Giants, "I basically wanted to give Ruf two days in a row, just to get his feet wet, see him against a right-handed pitcher, then go from there. But in all likelihood, at least after today, it will be a scenario of ... I'd be considering a platoon system at first base."
The p-word has been uttered: platoon.
Sandberg and Howard held a closed-door meeting in the manager's office for at least 10-15 minutes about three hours before the game. Howard was unavailable to comment afterward. He made a beeline to the back of the Phillies' clubhouse upon leaving Sandberg's office. He returned to his locker to grab his cell phone before going outside to make a call. The clubhouse closed almost immediately after he returned.
Howard had no interest in commenting about his situation after the game.
"Talk to him," he said after the game, referring to Sandberg. "Bye. Talk to the manager."
Asked if Howard was receptive to his talk, Sandberg said, "He wants to play and he wants to be in the lineup, and that's totally understandable. So as we go forward and there are some options on some days, then I'll look at those options."
It does not take a genius to see the 2006 National League Most Valuable Player is not happy.
If Sandberg follows through and platoons Howard and Ruf it would make Howard, who signed a $125 million contract in April 2010, a part-time player with $60 million owed to him after this season. What that means for Howard's future remains to be seen. Sources said the Phillies have kicked around multiple scenarios regarding Howard's future, including the possibility of releasing him in the offseason.
It would seem to be an awkward situation for Ruf, who is trying to prove himself as a regular big league player. But Ruf said he will not let the spotlight bother him as he is asked to take an iconic player's place in the lineup.
"Ryan is a great player," Ruf said. "He's going to be counted on to help this team win in the last two months, hopefully. If we can share a role in making that happen, or he becomes the player that he once was and that we know he can be, and if it's my opportunity, I'll just look forward to proving I can be that guy, too."
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was unavailable to comment on Howard's situation and future with the organization.
"Ryan wants to be in there," Sandberg said. "I totally expect that, so we'll go forward and make up lineups."
Papelbon content to remain in Phillies' bullpen
PHILADELPHIA -- Jonathan Papelbon would like to be traded to a contender before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, but the veteran closer said on Thursday that he likes the makeup of the Phillies' bullpen and wouldn't be disappointed if he's still with the club in August.
"I really, really like our situation down there in the bullpen," Papelbon said after pitching a third straight day and earning the save in a 2-1 win over the Giants. "I really truly do. I like being a part of it. Just the circumstances are we're not in a playoff situation or a winning situation right now and, of course, if I had the opportunity to go to a playoff contending team that's all fine and dandy. But at the end of the day, if nothing happens, nothing happens. I don't have any control over that."
Papelbon is 2-2 with 24 saves and a 1.91 ERA in 42 appearances this season. Contenders always look to add relievers at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, but some potential landing spots for Papelbon have closed recently with the Angels acquiring Huston Street from the Padres and the Tigers getting Joakim Soria from the Rangers.
With a week to go before the Trade Deadline, Papelbon could still be dealt. But if he were in a Phillies uniform next month, Papelbon would seem to be fine with that. He called the Phils' bullpen a "fun atmosphere" and said he enjoys the young group of relievers around him and bullpen coach Rod Nichols.
"We've got a good thing going down there and if I was to leave, I would be lying to say I wouldn't miss that," Papelbon said.
Papelbon was booed when he took the mound on Thursday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. His recent comments on the Trade Deadline are well known by Phillies fans. But Papelbon is happy to play the role of villain if he sticks around in Philadelphia.
"No, I enjoy it," Papelbon said when asked if the boos bother him. "I just think that it's fun. It just brings a little bit of energy and life to the park, and gives me a little bit of something to look forward to do every day ... You've got to be able to take it if you want to dish it out, right? I think that goes both ways for me. It's kind of like a big brother little brother relationship, I would say."
And which brother is Papelbon?
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.