Phillies

Struggling Howard benched for two days

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Struggling Howard benched for two days

LOS ANGELES – A year and a half into his five-year, $125 million contract, Ryan Howard has been benched.

Howard, mired in an 0-for-16 slump, was held out of the Phillies' lineup Friday night.

One game is a day off.

More than one is a benching.

Manager Charlie Manuel said Howard would also sit out Saturday night’s game. The Dodgers are using left-handed pitchers in both games and Howard is hitting just .173 (13 for 75) with a .222 on-base percentage, a .293 slugging percentage and 38 strikeouts against lefties.

The benching comes one day after Howard killed a rally by grounding into a double play on a down-and-away 3-0 pitch in a 6-4 loss to the Dodgers. Later in the game, he made a defensive miscue that contributed to the Dodgers' scoring the go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh.

After the game, Howard took full responsibility for the loss in an interview with reporters (see story).

Manuel informed Howard of the benching in a Friday meeting that was also attended by hitting coaches Steve Henderson and Wally Joyner.

Manuel said Howard’s benching was not punitive. It is designed to be constructive.

“They have two left-handers going in a row,” Manuel said. “Ryan will sit tomorrow, too. He’ll do hitting drills. I want to give him some time to clear his head. Right now he looks uncomfortable and he’s not seeing the ball good. We want him feeling better against left-handers.”

Manuel said Howard would return to the lineup Sunday against Dodgers right-hander Stephen Fife.

Manuel said Howard understood the reasoning for the benching.

“He’s fine with it,” Manuel said.

Howard declined comment on the matter.

“I got nothing today,” he said.

Howard, 33, is hitting .268 with 10 homers and 41 RBIs in 74 games this season. He has been plagued by problems with his left leg for over a year. He missed the first half of last season recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and this season is playing with a cartilage problem in his left knee that he recently said causes him pain every day. The plan for now remains to play through the issue unless it becomes debilitating.

“His average is OK,” GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “He’s struggled at times. He’s streaky, but not as streaky on the positive side as he typically is. He could carry a team at times and he hasn’t done that yet. He hasn’t performed to his capabilities.

“He’s a better player than he’s showed this year. I think his injuries have taken a toll on him. How much it has affected him mentally, I don’t know. It may be affecting him mentally a little bit.”

Howard has 3½ seasons to go on a huge five-year, $125 million contract. Amaro recently told CSNPhilly.com that he did not regret giving Howard that deal. The GM believes Howard can still be a top run producer.

Why?

“His track record, more than anything else,” Amaro said. “More than anything else, he has to get to the point where he is healthy again. Health means something to these guys mentally. It’s hard to play at 100 percent when you’re not 100 percent. He can still be a very productive player. It’s a matter of getting him back to 100 percent. He needs to get his mojo back. One works with the other.”

John Mayberry Jr. started at first base in Howard’s place Friday night.

Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

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Gabe Kapler names Jim Gott Phillies' bullpen coach

Gabe Kapler on Friday added to his coaching staff by naming Jim Gott the Phillies' bullpen coach.

Gott was the minor-league pitching coordinator for the Angels the last five seasons and the pitching coach for the Arizona League Angels the three years prior to that role.

He played for the Blue Jays, Giants, Pirates and Dodgers over 14 major-league seasons as a starter and reliever. Gott, now 58 years old, compiled a 3.87 ERA while making 96 starts and converting 91 saves.

Kapler and the Phillies still need to name a pitching coach and first-base coach. Last week, they named Dusty Wathan third-base coach and hired John Mallee as hitting coach, while retaining Rick Kranitz, who was the assistant pitching coach last season (see story). He could fill the main pitching coach vacancy, although his role is currently to be determined.

In 2017, Bob McClure served the Phillies as pitching coach and Mickey Morandini was first-base coach.

MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

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MLB Notes: Astros' Jose Altuve, Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton claim MVP awards

Houston Astros dynamo Jose Altuve has won the American League MVP award, towering over New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge by a wide margin.

The 5-foot-6 Altuve drew 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Altuve batted a major league-best .346. He hit 24 home runs with 81 RBIs, scored 112 times, stole 32 bases and showed a sharp glove at second base.

The 6-foot-7 Judge won the AL Rookie of the Year award Monday. He set a rookie record with 52 home runs.

Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians finished third. The award was announced Thursday.

Altuve helped lead the Astros to their first World Series championship. Voting for these honors was completed before the postseason began.

Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton won the NL MVP award, barely edging Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.

In the closest MVP vote since 1979, Stanton became only the sixth player to win from a losing team. Stanton led the big leagues with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs (see full story).

MLB: Manfred says pace changes will happen with or without union
Major League Baseball will change rules to speed games next year with or without an agreement with the players' association.

Management proposed last offseason to institute a 20-second pitch clock, allow one trip to the mound by a catcher per pitcher each inning and raise the bottom of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level at the top of the kneecap. The union didn't agree, and clubs have the right to impose those changes unilaterally for 2018.

Players and MLB have held initial bargaining since summer, and MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem said this week he would like an agreement by mid-January.

"My preferred path is a negotiated agreement with the players, but if we can't get an agreement we are going to have rule changes in 2018 one way or the other," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday after a quarterly owners' meeting.

Nine-inning games averaged a record 3 hours, 5 minutes during the regular season and 3:29 during the postseason.

There are ongoing talks for a new posting system with Japan to replace the deal that expired Nov. 1, one that would allow star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani to leave the Pacific League's Nippon Ham Fighters to sign with a big league team (see full story).

Mariners: Team makes trade, raises available money for Japan's Otani​
The Seattle Mariners have gained more flexibility if they want to try to sign star Japanese pitcher/outfielder Shohei Otani.

They acquired an additional $500,000 for their international signing bonus pool from the Chicago White Sox in a trade for Brazilian right-hander Thyago Vieira.

Otani, a 23-year-old right-hander, would be limited to a minor league contract with a signing bonus under Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement. The trade announced Thursday increases the Mariners' available money for a signing bonus to $1,557,500. Seattle has spent $3,942,500 on bonuses in the signing year that started July 2 from a pool that rose to $5.5 million with the trade.

The 24-year-old Vieira made his major league debut with a scoreless inning against Baltimore on Aug. 14, his only big league appearance. He was 2-3 with two saves and a 3.72 ERA in 29 games this year for Double-A Arkansas and 0-1 with two saves and a 4.58 ERA in 12 games for Triple-A Tacoma.

Chicago is restricted to a maximum $300,000 signing bonus because it exceeded its pool in a previous year under the old labor contract.