For several years, many have suggested that the Phillies ought to platoon first baseman Ryan Howard with a right-handed hitter who can handle lefties. In the past, John Mayberry, Jr. was one option and more recently, Darin Ruf seems tailor-made for the role.
Per CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury, Howard is keeping the mindset of an everyday player, saying, “That’s negative. If I think negative, if I think I can’t hit lefties, I might as well not go out there at all.” More from Salisbury:
Howard believes a healthy left leg will allow him to be better against lefty pitching in 2014.
“Being able to now have two legs and being able to be a little more stable in the box, it will allow me to stay back a little bit longer and kind of see balls,” he said Saturday. “When my legs are going good and everything is going well I can hit lefties. It’s just a matter of being able to be stable in the box.”
Howard’s weighted on-base average (wOBA) against right- and left-handed pitching since 2006 looks like this:
The National League average wOBA for first basemen from 2006-13 has been .362, .358, .353, .360, .347, .340, .328, and .328, so Howard’s production against lefties over the last three seasons has been significantly below average. He can still hit right-handed pitching without a doubt.
Also from Salisbury, Howard says his goal for 2014 is to play in all 162 games.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP
UPDATE, 5:08 PM EDT: Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon will not rule out a World Series appearance for Kyle Schwarber if the Cubs advance. MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reports that Schwarber could play through a simulated game on Sunday, during which the Cubs’ medical and baseball staff would evaluate his chances for a late season return. If he does play, it will likely be in a pinch-hitting or DH role and not on the field.
Cubs’ outfielder Kyle Schwarber will return to the playing field on Saturday, per a report by the Chicago Tribune’s Mark Gonzales. The club’s prized left fielder suffered a season-ending injury when he collided with Dexter Fowler back in April, tearing both his ACL and LCL and undergoing intensive knee surgery later that month.
While no nerve damage was discovered during the surgery, the Cubs have kept a close eye on Schwarber during his recovery and put a kibosh on any part-time or full-time role with the team until the spring of 2017. Getting a few reps in during the Arizona Fall League appears to be the last step in the 23-year-old’s rehab process. He will be part of the Mesa Solar Sox’ ‘taxi squad,’ making him eligible for games on Wednesdays and Saturdays only.
Schwarber batted .246/.355/.487 with 16 in 69 games with the Cubs during his debut season in 2015. He will be added to the Mesa Solar Sox roster in advance of their set against the Salt River Rafters on Saturday evening.