The Phillies won’t be using first baseman Ryan Howard in the starting lineup until Sunday, reports Matt Gelb. Howard had an awful game last night, costing his team both offensively (with a rally-killing double play in the fifth inning) and defensively (falling down while fielding a Juan Uribe sacrifice bunt) en route to a loss. He had been on a bit of a tear, raising his OPS 100 points between June 12-22, but it quickly faded. The Dodgers are slated to use lefties Chris Capuano tonight and Hyun-jin Ryu tomorrow.
Year two of the Ryan Howard extension has been better than year one, but GM Ruben Amaro obviously hoped for a lot more than what they’ve gotten thus far. Howard has been battling a nagging knee injury for a while, which is at least partially to blame for his recent woes. Still, you have to wonder when the Phillies swallow their pride and relegate him to a platoon role. He is carrying a .516 OPS against lefties at the moment, compared to .894 against right-handers.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.