ARLINGTON, Texas — Ryan Howard strode into the visiting clubhouse at Globe Life Park and saw his name in the Phillies regular-season lineup for the 666th time since June 29, 2008. But, for the first time, it was written fifth in the batting order.
This was not a shock given that Ryne Sandberg tried Howard fifth and Marlon Byrd fourth for a few Grapefruit League games against lefthanded starters. Howard will start as the fifth hitter for the 69th career time, and Sandberg said he discussed the possibility multiple times with Howard.
"I don't make the lineup," Howard said. "Whatever the lineup is that's what the lineup is."
Howard did not wish to comment at length about the switch.
"Yeah," Howard said, "it's noteworthy, but at the same time I see all the other stuff... I'm not even going to go there. You can talk to [Sandberg] about all that stuff. I really have nothing to say about it. I'm going to stay away from all of that. Just try to keep everything on the up and up. You say the wrong thing and then all of a sudden... people just misconstrue or whatever. That's not what I want to have happen."
When asked if he had a preference, Howard said, "I don't know." The Phillies signed Howard to a five-year, $125 million contract that started in 2012. Howard has a .572 OPS against lefties since then; that ranks 75th among 81 lefthanded hitters with at least 150 plate appearances.
Sandberg identified splitting Howard and Chase Utley as a priority. He would not say if this will be a regular occurrence against lefthanded pitchers.
"The fifth spot is still an RBI spot with men on base," Sandberg said. "It's a power spot. It's still a good spot for him regardless."
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