CLEARWATER, Fla. - The day before the Phillies' first workout of the spring, manager Ryne Sandberg declared Ryan Howard the team's everyday first baseman "unless he gets unseated."
Come Tuesday afternoon, when the Phillies take the field for their Grapefruit League opener, Howard will again man his position of the last 10 seasons. It will be the slugger's first game action since he reported to camp slimmed down.
Howard will bat fourth at Bright House Field against the New York Yankees and righthander Adam Warren. The 35-year-old former National League MVP is coming off a season in which he slugged just .380 and struck out a major league-worst 190 times.
Howard has declined all interview requests since reporting to camp last Monday. He is coming off a tumultuous offseason; a recently settled financial dispute with his family became public and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. in December admitted he told Howard the rebuilding Phillies would be better off without him.
But Howard will start Tuesday as usual. Centerfielder Ben Revere will lead off, shortstop Freddy Galvis will hit second and leftfielder Grady Sizemore will hit third as Chase Utley continues to work his way back from a sprained right ankle.
Carlos Ruiz will bat behind Howard, although the 36-year-old catcher will serve as the designated hitter. Rightfielder Domonic Brown, third baseman Cody Asche, Hernandez and catcher Cameron Rupp fill out Tuesday's lineup.
Righthander Jerome Williams starts for the Phillies. David Buchanan, Joely Rodriguez, Jeanmar Gomez and Mario Hollands will also pitch.
Warren, 27, owns a 3.47 ERA in 104 major-league appearances, all but three coming as a reliever. The Yankees have former Miami Marlins righthander Nathan Eovaldi lined up to start Wednesday against the Phillies in Tampa.
Lefthander Cliff Lee pitched another bullpen session Monday ahead of his start Thursday against the Houston Astros in Kissimmee. . . . Righthander Chad Billingsley also threw in the bullpen Monday and could soon pitch to live hitters. . . . Lefthander Jesse Biddle, the Phillies' first-round draft pick in 2010 and a Germantown Friends graduate, is set to make his spring debut Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays in Clearwater. . . . About 70 Phillies players, coaches and front office members played in the team's annual spring golf tournament Monday afternoon. Minor-league catching coordinator Ernie Whitt captained the winning group. Manager Ryne Sandberg's team finished second.
- Jake Kaplan