Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. says Ryan Howard is likely to be with the team in spring training

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Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. said in a radio interview back in December that they’d be better off without Ryan Howard. One month later, they still haven’t found any takers on the trade front. There’s plenty of awkwardness in the air right now, but Amaro told Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News yesterday that the veteran first baseman is likely to be with the team in spring training.

“Regret being too honest?” Amaro said. “I guess sometimes. But I think that if Ryan’s with us, and he’s likely to be with us in spring training, I think Ryan’s got to prove to us that he’s ready to play every day at first base for us. I mean I’m kind of looking forward to him being ready and healthy and contributing. Right now, there’s nobody really that can unseat him.

“He’s a more productive player than anybody else we have there right now. But that could change. But he’s going to get every opportunity to play and be our first baseman, and I think that he’s going to be productive. Will he be productive enough to be part of what we want to do moving forward? We’ll see.”

Howard amassed 23 home runs and 95 RBI over 153 games last season, but he hit just .223 with a .310 on-base percentage and a .390 slugging percentage. The 35-year-old is owed $60 million over the next two seasons. Trade interest has naturally been hard to come by, even though it’s assumed the Phillies would be willing to eat a substantial portion of his contract in a deal. While it looks like Howard will be in camp this spring, the Phillies could potentially release him if they can’t find a taker between now and Opening Day.

If the Phillies finally decide to turn the page, they could rely on a combination of top prospect Maikel Franco and Darin Ruf at first base.

Yankees place Aaron Judge (strained calf) on IL

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Yankees star Aaron Judge was placed on the injured list with a right calf strain before Friday night’s game against Boston and manager Aaron Boone is optimistic the outfielder will not miss significant time.

The move was retroactive to Wednesday and Boone described the strain as mild after an MRI revealed the injury. To replace Judge on the roster, Thairo Estrada was recalled from the Yankees’ alternate site in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Judge began Friday leading the majors with nine homers and tied with Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon for the major league lead with 20 RBIs.

“It’s something that I think he really wants to try and work through here and kind of wants to be out here and feels like it’s a day-to-day thing which it may very well be, but I just think obviously it goes without saying how important a player Aaron is to us,” Boone said.

Boone had said last weekend’s series on the artificial turf in Tampa Bay took its toll on the 6-foot-7 outfielder.

Judge joined Giancarlo Stanton as the second Yankees slugger to land on the injured list this. Stanton was placed on the IL with a strained hamstring after getting hurt in the second game of last Saturday’s doubleheader.

“We’ve lost two MVP-caliber players,” Boone said. “Obviously that is a blow, especially two guys that playing well as they are right now.”

Judge was pulled for a pinch hitter during Tuesday night’s win over Atlanta and didn’t play Wednesday. The Yankees were off Thursday.

The 28-year-old All-Star missed time during July’s training camp because of a stiff neck.

The 2017 AL Rookie of the Year hit 27 homers in each of the last two seasons, both of them interrupted by injuries. His right wrist was broken when he was hit by a pitch in 2018 and he went on the injured list for two months last year with a left oblique strain.

Judge was diagnosed with a broken rib in March and would not have been ready for the season opener if the season began as scheduled on March 26.