Charlie Manuel stuck to his plan for Ryan Howard

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

CLEARWATER, Fla. — This was not something Charlie Manuel devised on a whim. Each morning this spring, Ryan Howard would saunter to the bulletin board in the middle of the Phillies clubhouse to look for an answer he already knew. For 14 straight days, Howard's name appeared in the lineup.

The streak will end Friday.

"I decided that about two weeks ago," Manuel said. "I wasn’t going to tell you guys."

He did not tell his first baseman either. Howard never condemned the idea. At the same time, he would not have declined a day of rest sometime.

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Howard thrived during the Grapefruit League streak. He is hitting .364 (12 for 33) with half of his hits for extra bases. He missed all of last spring because of surgery for a torn Achilles tendon.

There was a reasoning, Manuel said, behind all of this.

"First of all, I felt like we had to get him in shape playing in games," Manuel said. "I picked a time and how much we wanted to play him. He had to play and get over some soreness and some things like that. His quads were sore and he feels better and he's getting where we want him.

"We want him healthy, but at the same time we're not trying to kill him down here. We ain’t gonna kill him. Hard work never hurt nobody. He'll be in shape but I'll start monitoring him more. He will get some time off."

The plan was devised after consulting team officials, doctors and looking at Howard, Manuel said. They wanted him in "baseball shape" before anything else. There is still work left.

"I’d like to see him in better shape," Manuel said. "He’ll get there, too."

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