Phillies Notes | Howard, Manuel get all-star invites

Phillies Notes

Two Phillies already have been asked to attend all-star week festivities next month in San Francisco: Charlie Manuel and Ryan Howard.

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who will manage the National League, asked Manuel to join his staff after New York Mets manager Willie Randolph backed out because he is undergoing shoulder surgery. But Manuel also cannot attend because he has a personal commitment he cannot break.

"I was quite honored for him to even ask," Manuel said of La Russa. "I totally wish that I could go."

Baseball sources said Howard has been asked to defend his title in the Home Run Derby, even if he makes the National League roster. The decision is Howard's to make.

Manuel has kept the Phillies close to the Mets in the NL East despite having the second-worst pitching staff in the league and losing pitchers Freddy Garcia, Jon Lieber, Brett Myers and Tom Gordon to injuries. Manuel also has had to rework a lineup that had expected Pat Burrell and Wes Helms to be run-producers.

"Critics will always say things about you, but that's also part of having this job," Manuel said yesterday. "I love every one of our fans. I enjoy coming to the ballpark. I totally mean that. There are people who are going to say whatever they want about you, but most of the time those people don't really know you. You've got to be strong and overlook things. But I'm honored somebody like Tony thinks that much of me."

Pitching carousel. Lefthander J.A. Happ, who will start tomorrow against the Mets, will be the sixth Phillies pitcher to make his major-league debut this season. The others were Joe Bisenius, Yoel Hernandez, Kyle Kendrick, Zack Segovia and Mike Zagurski.

It's the third time in 40 years the Phillies have had that many pitchers make their big-league debuts with them; they had eight in 1996 and six in 1969.

Burrell back? Pat Burrell didn't start for the seventh time in 10 games, but Manuel hinted that the leftfielder could start today in Game 2 of a doubleheader against Mets righthander John Maine. Burrell is hitting .200 (3 for 15) with a home run and two RBIs against Maine.

"I've got to put him back in there and let him play sooner or later," Manuel said. "I didn't sit Pat Burrell on the bench to bench him forever. He's going to play some."

-Todd Zolecki