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.
The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.
Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.
Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.
Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.