Ryan Howard didn’t get much respect from the Astros

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Here’s something you don’t expect to see too often: a guy being intentionally walked in favor of facing a dude who has hit 45+ home runs and 130+ RBI four times.  But that’s what Houston Astros manager Tony DeFrancesco did yesterday, choosing to walk Chase Utley to face Ryan Howard. Twice.

What was your rationale, Mr. DeFrancesco?

“Howard, for me, was struggling the first couple days and wasn’t even getting a good swing and if I was going to have somebody beat me it was going to be Howard,” DeFrancesco said.

You don’t hear that very often.  But then again, maybe there’s a reason for it. Because even though Howard is struggling mightily — he has been even more vulnerable to lefties lately than he usually is — he still made DeFrancesco pay for the second walk, when Howard hit a two-run double.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.