Not Taking Howard West Hurt Phillies Offense

All along, the plan was to bring Ryan Howard to the majors when the Phillies were playing in American League cities. Somewhere along the line, that plan changed and Howard was playing games in Durham and Norfolk rather than traveling out west with the Phillies.

Ryan Howard is at AAA because the Phillies want him to play on an everyday basis and rightly so. The theory was that they could add him to the roster to help when they played interleague games in American League cities where the DH would be used.

The Phillies changed their plans - as they often do with young players - and kept Howard at AAA for the past six days while the Phillies offense struggled against Seattle and Oakland. The reasoning was that manager Charlie Manuel wanted to get at bats for the likes of Tomas Perez, Ramon Martinez, Endy Chavez and Jason Michaels. The only one who saw substantial at bats was Michaels, who went 2-for-13 on the trip. Perez started two games at first base and went 0-for-9. He also came into another game as a pinch-runner and got an at bat, striking out in that opportunity. In all, Perez, Martinez, Chavez and Michaels went 5-for-24 with no homeruns, two RBI, no walks and three strikeouts as offensive replacements on the six game west coast trip.

Chavez played in one game, starting in left field for Pat Burrell and going 0-for-5. Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu each served as the designated hitter in three games on the trip.

Meanwhile, Howard hit .444 (8-for-18) with two homeruns and six RBI in five games with Scranton. By the way, one of his homeruns came off Norfolk's Eric Junge, a former Phillie.

Another reason why Howard wasn't brought to the majors is because of Manuel continues to insist that he needs 12 pitchers. Why? Amaury Telemaco hasn't pitched since June 6th. In fact, in the time that he's spent with the Phillies - in between being shuttled back and forth between Philadelphia and Scranton - Telemaco has pitched just 3 2/3 innings.

The rest of the bullpen was needed for 15 1/3 innings in the six game trip. Granted, the Phillies got nice, long outings from Jon Lieber in Seattle and Cory Lidle in Oakland, but they also played a 13 inning game in Seattle and neither Vicente Padilla or Robinson Tejeda made it through the sixth inning in their starts.

The Phillies should consider dropping to 11 pitchers. They should also consider bringing Howard to the majors and getting him at bats wherever they can. The idea of him playing everyday in AAA isn't necessarily a bad one, but this bench has been weakened and Howard could be a welcome addition. One and possibly two days off a week for Thome wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Howard could also pinch-hit and come in to some games in late innings to get at bats.

If not a permanent call-up, the Phillies should have definitely brought Howard along for the trip to Seattle and Oakland. Having his bat in the lineup would have added some much needed offense to a lineup that is known to struggle.

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