Manuel has been in the Phillies' dugout for each of Howard's 202 career home runs, and without his cleanup-hitting first baseman, Manuel doesn't believe he would have a World Series ring or the privilege of managing the National League team in the All-Star Game on July 14 in St. Louis
Thus, in what came as no surprise Sunday, Manuel used one of his eight selections to choose Howard, a St. Louis native, to play in his second career All-Star Game and first since his 2006 MVP season. The NL team features four first basemen: Pujols (Cardinals), Gonzalez (Padres), Howard and Prince Fielder (Brewers). Howard and Fielder were picked by Manuel.
"I chose Ryan Howard because I felt like he deserves to go, and also, I felt like he's our player, he's my player, and my players are why I'm managing in the All-Star Game in the first place," Manuel said. "He's my guy. I've always said that."
Howard was one of three Phillies players named to the NL team, and the contingent may grow this week. Second baseman Chase Utley and left fielder Raul Ibanez were voted as starters in fan balloting, and center fielder Shane Victorino is listed on a five-player "final vote" ballot. Through Thursday, fans can vote online for the final player on each league's roster.
"One of the inside jokes around here is that people always look at my numbers in St. Louis, so that could've been a factor or what not," Howard said. "There's not too many opportunities where you get to play in your home town in an All-Star Game, so I think everybody's definitely excited."
Asked if he'll compete in the Home Run Derby on July 13, Howard said, "If they ask me to, I'll probably hop in there and do it. I think it would be fun to do it in my hometown."
For a fourth consecutive season, Utley will be the NL's starting second baseman after getting 5,027,029 votes in the fan balloting. Ibanez was selected to his first All-Star Game by receiving 4,053,355 votes, second among outfielders behind only the Brewers' Ryan Braun (4,138,559).
And if he wins the final vote, Victorino will go to his first All-Star Game in his fourth full major-league season. In balloting of players, managers and coaches, Manuel said he voted for Victorino, who is batting .300 and leads the team with 96 hits and 13 stolen bases.
Victorino also has a chance to make the team as an injury replacement for Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran, who likely won't play in the All-Star Game because of a bruised right knee.
"It's one of those things where we leave it up to the Philly faithful, and I think I have a good chance," Victorino said. "I've got faith in the fans. It's up to the fans now. It's going to be fun."
News and Notes...
"Yeah, it's been a while," Lidge said Saturday after notching his first save at home - and his first 1-2-3 inning - since May 31. "I'm real happy about that. I just want to keep building on each outing and hopefully put together a real good run here."
He said what?
"He was stubborn. But when you hit rock bottom, usually you figure it out." - Phillies hitting coach Milt Thompson on Jimmy Rollins' initial reluctance to take his suggestion and alter his stride during his career-worst 0-for-28 slump.