Byrd and Howard Could Be Phillies' Spark

The Phillies have a few events that are seemingly all coming together. Kenny Lofton and Jim Thome are hurting, while Marlon Byrd and Ryan Howard are swinging hot bats at AAA Scranton. A rest wouldn't hurt the big leaguers, while the young guys could be a needed spark for the Phillies lineup.

Sometimes, you have to do something seemingly drastic to get better. All season long, Kenny Lofton (hamstring) and Jim Thome (back) have battled injuries. While both are listed as day-to-day, whispers have Thome missing possibly a week of action, especially since he compared his latest back pain to "what I did in spring training." Back then, Thome missed more than a week of action.

If the Phillies are going to win this season, Thome is a major piece of the puzzle and Lofton, while not quite as major, is certainly important. Let both heal now and get themselves ready for the rest of the season. A stint for both on the disabled list wouldn't be a bad move. It would give both time to heal and help to prevent their injuries from worsening and forcing them onto the DL, perhaps for a longer period of time.

The plan for disabling both players picks up steam when you look at the openings that the moves would create and how they could be filled.

Like Thome, Howard started the season in a power outage. Unlike Thome, he's pulled himself out of his struggles and has hit three homeruns in the last week and homered in back-to-back games. All season long, he's swung the bat with authority and he's hitting .333 through his first 22 games of the season at Scranton. He has also learned how to take a walk and has a big-time OBP of .441 on the season. He's had some major league seasoning and can step in and handle the situation while Thome gives his aching back time to heal. Plus, it's possible that the Phillies would be recalling Howard for their first interleague series of the season, which starts May 20th in Baltimore.

As for Byrd, he's showing that he's healthy and he's been swinging the bat pretty well since returning to action. In four games with the Red Barons, he's hitting .267, but has also contributed with two homeruns and four RBI. Byrd wouldn't come in and take over in center, but he could give Jason Michaels an occasional day off, provide some spark off the bench and also allow Michaels to slide over to left field if Pat Burrell's groin injury causes any further problems.

There is no reason to risk having Lofton and Thome make their injuries worse by having them play when there are strong candidates to fill in for them at the major league level. Plus, if they're not able to play, but not on the DL, the team is weakened by having Charlie Manuel's moves limited late in the game.

The addition of Howard to the everyday lineup would give the Phillies a needed power bat while Thome recuperates and hopefully returns with the power turned back on. It's a move that makes sense from every angle.

By the way, while disabling Thome is the right move, let's not jump off his bandwagon. The guy is a powerful hitter, hampered badly by a sore back. He hit just .203 in April with just one homerun, making it one of the worst months in his career. That doesn't mean that he can't or won't turn things around and finish the season with impressive numbers. It simply means that he wasn't able to help this club in the first month of the season. There's no reason for him to limp through any further part of the season and make this an on-going story. Rest for his back - and to a lesser extent, his mind - could be just what the doctor ordered for Thome.


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