MIAMI - Ryan Howard's future with the Phillies has long been a popular topic. The aging slugger is now one of only two holdovers from the 2008 World Series championship team. His decline in production and albatross of a contract have rendered him untradeable.
So how does incoming team president Andy MacPhail view Howard's future? MacPhail, set to officially succeed Pat Gillick after the season, said Tuesday that he anticipates Howard will be in Clearwater, Fla., with the Phillies come spring training.
Howard, who turns 36 in November, will be in the final year of the five-year, $125 million contract extension he signed in April 2010. Between base salary and a buyout of his option for 2017, he will make $35 million next season.
"I don't know what's going to happen over the course of the winter, what opportunities may be available for us and for him," MacPhail said before the Phillies' series opener against the Marlins, in which they won, 6-2, to snap their six-game losing streak. "We'll just have to cross that bridge when we get there.
"But right now, he's somebody that I think we have a vested interest in getting back healthy and getting him to Clearwater and getting that bat in our lineup that we don't have without him."
Howard has not played since Sept. 14, when he suffered a left knee contusion that later swelled to the point where he needed his knee drained. He has not swung a bat since the injury and his return for the season's final games is in question. His 23 home runs and 77 RBIs lead the team, but he is batting only .229 in 467 at-bats.
As for the game, Cody Asche had his first multi-home run game. He belted a Tom Koehler fastball into the second deck in the fourth inning and went deep on a slider from lefthander Raudel Lazo in the eighth.
The homers were his 10th and 11th of the season. He is batting .249 in 390 at-bats this season. Darin Ruf also homered. Asche and Freddy Galvis each had three hits.
Aaron Harang earned his first win since July 30 with seven innings of two-run ball. The 37-year-old righthander lowered his ERA to 4.93. Ken Giles, pitching for the first time since Sept. 13, threw a scoreless ninth in a non-save situation.
Nola keeps going
Aaron Nola's rookie season will continue.
Although the 22-year-old righthander's innings count for his first full professional season reached 182 on Sunday, Nola feels healthy and will make his next start Saturday against the Nationals in Washington.
Will it be the final start of his rookie season? At most, he will make two more.
"We're going to go start to start," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He was gung-ho. He wants to start again. He said, 'I feel great. I'm anxious to get back out there.' So he's going to get another start and then we'll go from there."
Mackanin said Tuesday that "it doesn't look good" for a Maikel Franco return before season's end.
Franco, who is rehabilitating at the team's Clearwater facility, "still feels something" in the left wrist he fractured Aug. 11, Mackanin said.
"Before he leaves Clearwater, they want to make sure he's 100 percent because he's going to play winter ball," Mackanin said. "They're not going to let him leave to play winter ball if he's still feeling something."