Ryan Howard is the Phillies’ first baseman … unless he isn’t

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Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg met with the media upon arriving at spring training and said the following when asked about Ryan Howard’s status on the team:

Right now, unless he gets unseated, he’s the first baseman. He needs to prepare himself to be the best first baseman he can be.

Well then.

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has made it pretty clear that he’d like to rid the Phillies of Howard’s long-term contract, but obviously no teams are interested in taking him off their hands and Amaro has so far been unwilling to simply move on by eating all the money. And so that leaves Sandberg in a relatively tough spot where he has to dance around the fact Howard isn’t very good any longer without actually benching him.

All of which leads to quotes like “right now, unless he gets unseated, he’s the first baseman.” Sandberg did tell Todd Zolecki of MLB.com that he recently spoke to Howard and the former MVP is “very positive with the conversation” and “he wanted to be part of the process here with the younger players that we might have in camp.”

Trea Turner undergoes surgery on right index finger

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Nationals shortstop Trea Turner underwent surgery on his right index finger, MLB.com’s Manny Randhawa reports. Turner suffered a non-displaced fracture when he was hit by a pitch attempting to bunt in early April.

Turner missed six weeks of action and played through the injury for the remainder of the season. He was quite successful, batting .298/.353/.497 with 19 home runs, 57 RBI, 96 runs scored, and 35 stolen bases across 569 plate appearances. Turner’s performance, especially late in the regular season, helped the Nationals claim the first NL Wild Card. They, of course, would go on to win the World Series.

Turner, who is expected to be healed up by the start of spring training, will be entering his second of four years of arbitration eligibility. He will likely get a sizable raise on his $3.725 million 2019 salary.