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Manuel hopes two days off cures Howard's "over-trying"

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has benched Ryan Howard for a couple of games.

Ask Ryan Howard's mom.


Ask her.

"She'll tell you that I've never hit good in April," Howard said. "She'll take it all the way back to high school, I'm sure."

Last night after Howard went 0-for-4 and struck out in his last two at-bats against the Brewers, manager Charlie Manuel called him into his office and informed him that he'd be getting a break for a couple of days. Don't look at it as a benching. Look at it more as a mental health leave of absence.

"I didn't want to sit him down, but I think it's time," Manuel said. "I think it will be good for him to sit there and watch the game, and get things off his mind."

Howard will likely sit for the next two games, though Manuel won't hesitate to use him as a pinch-hitter. In his place, the hot-hitting Greg Dobbs will play first and bat in the top half of the order. Howard is hitting .181 with 4 home runs, 32 strikeouts and just 15 walks. He struggled last April, but never this mightily.

Howard is obviously frustrated, as anybody who has watched his body language the past week can tell. Still, he's trying to remain upbeat.

"You never want to get out to a slow start, but right now it's April, there's still five, six months left," Howard said. "I'll just try and take some positives out of the day and try to start seeing the ball better."

Manuel hopes the time off will allow Howard to clear his head.

"Let me tell you somthing. . .Albert Belle used to have trouble hitting his first home run, and jesus christ all mighty, he'd carry you for a month and finally hit one and start breaking bats and fighting and throwing things like the world is coming to an end," said Manuel, who coached the fiery Belle in Cleveland. "Pretty soon you've dug a big hole for yourlsef. He he used to tell me he would get off to slow starts beacuse he was trying to do too much, and right now Ryan is trying to do too much. He sees other guys hitting the ball good and things like that and he wants to contribute too. All of a sudden he's overtrying."