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Slumping Howard being benched for two games

At halfway point of the season, Howard has only 10 homers, so Charlie Manuel thinks it is time he gets a rest.

Ryan Howard gets ready for a baseball game against the San Diego Padres during warmups in San Diego, Monday, June 24, 2013. (Lenny Ignelzi/AP)
Ryan Howard gets ready for a baseball game against the San Diego Padres during warmups in San Diego, Monday, June 24, 2013. (Lenny Ignelzi/AP)Read more

LOS ANGELES - Last night's game at Dodgers Stadium was the 81st of the season for the Phillies, meaning they reached the official halfway point of 2013 at the game's conclusion.

Ryan Howard, who once hit 58 home runs in a season and averaged 44 homers per year from 2006-11, has 10 home runs. So he's on pace for 20.

Manager Charlie Manuel strongly defended keeping Howard in the cleanup spot in his lineup earlier this month. But yesterday, he succumbed to his former slugger's struggles and kept him out of the lineup entirely.

But there's more: Howard won't play tonight, either.

Manuel has decided to bench Howard in an effort to get the $125 million man going before the Phillies' season reaches a crisis point.

Manuel called Howard into his office yesterday afternoon at Dodger Stadium - and included both of the team's hitting coaches, too - to go over the plan. With the Phils facing lefthanded pitchers both nights, Manuel thought it was as good of a time as any for a break.

"I talked to him . . . we're going to do some drills with him," Manuel said. "We're going to do some work with his hitting and also give him some time, let him sit down and kind of clear his head. We'll see where he goes. He'll play Sunday. We're off Monday, when we got to Pittsburgh. And he'll play Tuesday. He'll be back in there and we'll turn him loose."

Howard is hitless in his last 16 at-bats. Half of those at-bats have ended with strikeouts.

He was particularly hard on himself following Thursday's game, saying he cost his team a 6-4 loss to the Dodgers.

"It wasn't the greatest night or game for me today," said Howard, who misplayed a bunt and took a bad swing at a 3-0 pitch and grounded into a doubleplay. " I take full responsibility for it . . . It's sucks, man. It sucks."

Howard declined to talk to the media after yesterday's benching plan was unveiled.

Howard, of course, isn't going anywhere anytime soon: There are still 3 1/2 years remaining on his 5-year, $125 million contract. The man who signed him to that contract, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., believes Howard can still be a productive, middle-of-the-order bat.

"He's been streaky, not as streaky on the positive side as he typically is," Amaro said. "He could carry a team for months at a time. He hasn't really done that yet. He hasn't performed to his capabilities . . . He's a better player than he's showed this year."

Amaro blamed health, which in turn, has sapped Howard of confidence.

"I think he's injuries have taken a little bit of a toll on him," Amaro said. "How much it's affected him mentally, I don't know. Maybe affecting him mentally a little bit . . . More than anything else, he has to get himself to the point where he is healthy again. Health means something to these guys mentally. It's hard to play at 100 percent when you're not at 100 percent.

"The knee issue may have something to do with his ankle originally. One thing is connected to the other. We just have to get him back and healthy. He can still be a very productive player. It's a matter of him getting physically back to 100 percent. He needs to get his mojo back. One works with the other."

Amaro said the team has considered placing Howard on the disabled list if his ailing left knee becomes too debilitating.

Roy Halladay played catch with Kyle Kendrick before batting practice, a day removed from a follow-up exam with his surgeon.

On Thursday night, Halladay was cleared to begin a long toss program by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed the pitcher's arthroscopic shoulder surgery on May 15. Halladay doesn't have any timetable for further progressions, but said his arm continues to "feel good."

"As long as we avoid setbacks, all is well," Halladay said yesterday. "No setbacks - that's the biggest thing."

Mike Adams (shoulder) said he elected to go with PRP injection treatment and rehab instead of surgery, because it gives him "two chances, instead of one" to pitch again. He viewed surgery as a last resort. Adams, who has three tears in his right shoulder, hopes to be healthy by the start of spring training. Adams is in the first year of a 2-year, $12 million deal . . . Righthander Carlos Zambrano was removed from his start with Triple A Lehigh Valley last night after two innings after experiencing soreness in his pitching arm. Ruben Amaro referred to it as "serious pain." Zambrano can opt out of his contract on Monday if he's not on the major league roster . . . Veteran infielder John McDonald arrived in the Phillies clubhouse yesterday. He was designated for assignment by the Indians on Wednesday, then traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash considerations on Thursday. "I try to tell young kids all the time, there are only 750 jobs, and sometimes you have to wait to get one of them," McDonald said. "It might have been my time. It wasn't. Now I'm going to take advantage of it and do what I can to help these guys." The Phils optioned Freddy Galvis to Triple A to make room for McDonald.