Howard looks for Phillies to regain health & contender status in 2013

If it is only that simple.

Ryan Howard feels that a healthy season will enable the Phillies to return as serious playoff contenders.

That’s assuming that injured players such as Howard, Chase Utley and Roy Halladay can return to form.  Howard believes that will be the case and he also thinks the Phillies will be back to their accustomed role of major playoff contender.

“I think so, most definitely,” he said after Thursday’s 7-3 loss to the Washington Nationals in the final 2012 game at Citizens Bank Park. “I think guys will be going home this offseason and getting healthy.”

Then he went down the list of prominent walking wounded.

“Doc (Halladay) wasn’t healthy, I wasn’t , Chase (Utley) wasn’t,” Howard said. “We had a rash of injuries and I think with what people have seen these last couple of months, with us making this run, it shows what we are capable of.”

There is always the chance that the late run could be fool’s gold, but the Phillies were 47-59 after suffering a 4-2 home loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 3.

Since then they have gone 31-19.

No question this has been a frustrating season for Howard after returning from his Achilles injury. He is batting just .220 with 14 home runs and more impressively 56 RBIs in 259 at-bats. However his slugging percentage is .425 and his OPS is an underwhelming .721.

Howard said that he didn’t realize how important it was to go through spring training and how much he missed it this year.
“For me I am looking forward to this offseason to come back 100 percent and come back in spring training 100 percent,” he said.

Howard was far from 100 percent this year, but he did show character going out there and competing. As usual, his strikeouts are alarmingly high, 98 and he continues to struggle against left-handers, batting .179 entering Thursday.

And while he has his weaknesses, Howard also has the ability to carry a lineup for an extended period.

The Phillies have enough holes that it will take more than injured players returning for them to succeed in 2013. Still, the return to form by Howard, who will be 33 in November, is one of the Phillies biggest needs. That’s because when Howard is a presence in the lineup, it changes everything.