ATLANTA - The Phillies have not formally declined Ryan Howard's $23 million option for 2017, but they will honor their longtime first baseman with a "special pregame presentation" on Sunday afternoon before what will be his final game with the team.
The on-field ceremony will start at 2:30 p.m., 35 minutes before the season finale against the New York Mets. Howard will start all three games of the weekend series as he plays his last games for the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
He sat Thursday night in the Phillies' final game at Turner Field.
"The last thing I want is for him to get hurt today," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said before the game.
Earlier this month, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak hinted that the team would do something to acknowledge Howard's time with the franchise. Sunday's farewell will be unique in that other key members of the 2008 World Series team left via trade or free agency and their Phillies tenures did not have a definitive end date, as Howard's does. The weekend will be a chance to say goodbye.
Howard has not acted sentimental.
"You guys are looking at it the way you guys are looking at it," Howard told a small group of reporters Tuesday. "I just really stay in the moment. I don't really try to focus on any of that stuff."
The Phillies will pay Howard a $10 million buyout once they decline the option, which must happen no later than five days after the conclusion of the World Series. He plans to play somewhere next season.
Farewell to Ted
In 1997, the Phillies came to Turner Field for the first time. Matt Beech lost and Darren Daulton homered. The ballpark, for the next 20 seasons, housed both good and bad memories for the Phillies. They posted an 82-90 record at this stadium, first built for the 1996 Olympics and now too old for Atlanta's taste. The Braves will move closer to the suburbs next season, at taxpayer-driven SunTrust Park.
Howard hit 23 homers, the most for any Phillies hitter at Turner Field. Jimmy Rollins played in 121 games. The best OPS, with a minimum of 100 plate appearances, was Jayson Werth's .965. Cole Hamels started the most games (20) for a Phillies pitcher at Turner Field. He had a 3.28 ERA here.
With the closure of Turner Field, Citizens Bank Park is the oldest ballpark in the National League East.