As expected the Phillies have activated Ryan Howard from the disabled list and the former MVP will make his season debut tonight against the Braves, batting cleanup.
Hector Luna was optioned to Triple-A to make room on the roster for Howard, who went 10-for-20 (.500) with a homer and two doubles in seven minor-league games while rehabbing his torn Achilles’ tendon.
Howard’s return comes just seven games after Chase Utley made his season debut, so the Phillies’ lineup is suddenly pretty healthy and actually managed to be decent with the sixth-most runs in the league even without Utley and Howard for the first three months.
Philadelphia’s fill-in first basemen hit .258 with 12 homers and a .733 OPS in Howard’s absence to rank 18th among MLB teams. Last season Howard hit .253 with 33 homers and an .835 OPS in 152 games, driving in 100-plus runs for the sixth straight season but posting the worst OPS of his career and failing to top a .500 slugging percentage for the first time at age 31.
Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius had another fantastic night last night. He went 3-for-3, hitting a home run for the fourth game in a row, had an RBI single and reached base safely in all five of his plate appearances in New York’s 7-4 win over Minnesota.
For the year that gives Gregorius a line of .372/.470/.833, putting him atop the American League in average, slugging, OPS, and OPS+. He also leads the league in total bases (65) and RBI (29). He leads all of baseball in fWAR at 2.2, edging out Mike Trout despite the fact that Trout has played in two more games. He’s second behind Trout in homers with nine.
After last night’s game he insisted that he is not a home run hitter:
“I do have a lot of home runs, but it’s not like I am going out there to try to hit them . . . I’m not a power guy like Judge and Stanton, who hit 50 to 60 and up. Those are the guys who actually hit home runs. One year, let’s say, I hit five — then you ask me where that part went . . . if they go out, they go out. I’m just mostly trying to barrel it up and get a good swing . . . I try to hit line drives and if you check most of my home runs they were line drives,” he said. “It’s not like I am going up to hit deep fly balls.”
Given that he hit 25 homers last year and 20 the year before, he’s being a bit modest, even if he’s not likely to keep up this torrid pace. That modesty is not stopping some people from getting a bit carried away, of course:
We’ll forgive Bob for the hyperbole. Didi has been fun to watch.