Sore Howard back on the bench

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard. (Alex Brandon/AP)

PITTSBURGH – Ryan Howard limped out of the clubhouse after the Phillies' Tuesday night game at PNC Park and when he returned for work Wednesday afternoon, he saw that he was not in manager Charlie Manuel's lineup for the second game of the series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

That's the way life goes when you have the kind of chronic knee pain that has hindered Howard almost since the start of this season.

“It was a little sore (Tuesday) night, but when I show up and the lineup is made up, then that’s what Charlie feels like he’s got to go with that day,” Howard said before Wednesday’s game. “I’m sure he probably talked to the trainers.”

Manuel said he could see that going from first to home on a sixth-inning RBI double by Delmon Young Tuesday had taken its toll on Howard’s left knee. Howard, who ended an 0-for-22 stretch with two hits in the win over the Pirates, did not start for the fourth time in nine games on this 10-game road trip.

“I can about look at him and tell it’s bothering him by the way he walks,” the manager said. “That (first to home) is a hard run for him and his knee is worse some days than others.”

The manager also thought Wednesday was a good opportunity to rest Howard because the Phillies were facing a tough lefty in Pittsburgh’s Jeff Locke. Howard was 1-for-3 with two strikeouts against Locke earlier this season in Philadelphia. The first baseman has sat three of the last five games after being benched in the middle two games of the four-game series in Los Angeles.

“When Ryan’s knee is bothering him and a lefty is pitching, I think that’s a good time to give him a blow,” Manuel said. “That’s kind of what we’ve been doing. When he gets going good, we’ll put him back in there.”

Manuel said Howard will return to the lineup for Thursday afternoon’s series finale against the Pirates and that he hopes to play him in all three home games this weekend against Atlanta.

This was the 13th time overall this season that Howard was not in the starting lineup. Given the condition of his knee, he is almost certain to miss some more games.

“It hurts every day,” Howard said. “It’s a process. It’s kind of like when I wake up, you’ve got to get moving around a little bit to kind of get it loosened up. It’s always going to be a little stiff or a little sore. A lot of it comes from the pounding and running. That’s where I feel it the most.”

Howard said the rest does help him and he’s looking forward to the four-day reprieve he’ll get later this month at the all-star break.

“This is where it is right now,” he said. “So if I can still try and go out there and play, this is probably going to be the process that is taking place.”