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Ryan Howard would like you to know that he is not retired

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Ken Rosenthal of Fox catches up with Ryan Howard.

Howard, 37, is without a team at the moment but he has not retired. A state of affairs that many are confused about, it seems, as Howard tells Rosenthal:

Ryan Howard and his wife, Krystle, had something of a bet this offseason, a “friendly little thing,” as Ryan put it.

Fans would approach Ryan in Philadelphia and tell him, “Great career.” Krystle interpreted the remark as congratulations for his accomplishments with the Phillies. Ryan would tell her no, that after his farewell ceremony at Citizens Bank Park last September, fans thought he was retired.

So, Ryan said, every time a fan would say, “Great career,” he and Krystle would ask, “What do you mean?” trying to get clarity on the perception of where he stood.

Ryan — without being critical of the Phillies — believes that his on-field farewell at the end of last season at Citizens Bank Park made people think he was retiring, not merely that his career in red pinstripes was over. Sort of a lose-lose situation, I suppose. If the Phillies did not do anything it’d be said that they did not honor one of the most important players in franchise history. As it was, confusion was probably preferable.

But Howard still wants to play. And he’s realistic. He knows he’s a DH now, and probably knows he’s a platoon DH. He knows he’s not going to make a lot of money. He just wants a chance to play again and, to that end, has been “working out furiously.”

It’s hard to see where he might fit, however. It’s rare anymore for a team to have a full-time DH and even more rare for them to have a platoon DH who does not play any other positions. Even then, Howard’s platoon bonafides are not as great as some have portrayed. Rosenthal notes that he hit 24 homers against righties last year but glosses over the fact that he had a .269 OBP against them. Against lefties: .143. He can yank a longball on a mistake, but that’s about all he can do now.

I suspect he’ll get an invite to someone’s spring training and, if he has a good spring, might be able to break camp with someone. But it would shock me less if he doesn’t have a job by the time players report.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.