The end for Ryan Howard, it appears, was Saturday. He stumbled to an 0-for-4 night and two strikeouts while in Charlotte for an International League game. On Monday, the former Phillies slugger was released from his minor-league deal by Atlanta.

His career could be over.

The Braves signed Howard with the goal of having him serve as a designated hitter in interleague play and a lefthanded power bat from the bench. But he batted .184 (7 for 38) with a .238 on-base percentage and .263 slugging percentage in 11 games with the triple-A Gwinnett Braves. He struck out 11 times and walked twice.

Two weeks of meager production at triple A were enough evidence for Atlanta that Howard could not help them.

Howard, 37, is now a free agent. He went unsigned last winter and settled for the minor-league deal with the rebuilding Braves, who were willing to take a minimal risk for a big-name player.

In 13 seasons with the Phillies, Howard bashed 382 home runs, the second-most in club history.