Phillies

Phillies

LOS ANGELES — Even in recent years, as his production has declined, Ryan Howard has been able to crank up a hot streak from time to time.
 
Howard is hot right now.
 
Since the All-Star break, he is hitting .350 (14 for 40) with two doubles, four homers and eight RBIs.
 
In five games in the month of August, he is 7 for 15 with two doubles, two homers and five RBIs.
 
He helped put away Wednesday’s 6-2 win over the Dodgers with a three-run, pinch-hit double against closer Kenley Jansen in the top of the ninth inning (see game recap).
 
“He’s been contributing quite a bit lately, getting his hits, playing pretty good,” manager Pete Mackanin said of Howard. “I was thrilled to see him get that big hit, not only for him but for the team. It was a huge hit off a pretty good pitcher. It was great to see.”
 
Howard has been reduced to a part-time player as his contract runs out with the Phillies. Though not thrilled with his role, he has stayed positive and been a support system to his replacement, Tommy Joseph.
 
It’s always an adjustment for a player to go from full-time to part-time duty, especially a hitter who was an everyday star like Howard.
 
Howard was asked if his recent hot streak was a sign that he’s adjusting to his role.
 
“I don’t know how to answer that,” he said. “I don’t know. I just play. That’s it.
 
“It’s a game of ups and downs. You have downs. At some point you’re going to have some ups. Fortunately, I’m swinging it well. I’m trying to stick with it and let it ride. Not think too much.”
 
Mackanin believes Howard is getting more comfortable with the challenges of being a part-time player.
 
“I think so,” Mackanin said. “I've tried to get him in there as much as I can. And when you get in and produce, you play more. He’s swinging the bat better now than he was earlier in the season. I continue to put him in the lineup because of that. He looks better at the plate and is making better contact. If he keeps doing that he will continue to get playing time.”
 
There was no trade interest in Howard at the trade deadline last year.
 
Another deadline passed 10 days ago with no interest.
 
“Honestly, I wasn’t really surprised,” he said. “With my numbers the first half — it wasn’t the best first half. But there are two halves.”
 
And Howard is putting together a good run to start out this half.
 
Good enough to possibly interest a team, probably an American League team, looking for a part-time designated hitter down the stretch?
 
It’s probably unlikely. But not impossible.
 
“You never know,” Howard said.
 
Howard was asked if he hopes that a team takes a chance and trades for him for the strength drive.
 
He thought about his answer for a second.
 
“You play the game to try to win,” he said.
 
Translation: Sure, he’d love to go to a contender.
 
But if he doesn’t, he will play out his contract with the Phillies and try to hook on with another team next year.
 
Wherever he may be, finishing this season with a hot bat would be nice.
 
“All I can do is continue to prepare and try to have good at-bats,” Howard said.