After a crushing defeat to the New York Mets last night the Philadelphia Phillies have decided to call in reinforcements. First baseman Ryan Howard will make his season debut tonight as the Phillies take on their division rival, the Atlanta Braves. The timing of the announcement caught many “baseball heads” by surprise. Not only have the Phillies been extra careful with regards to Howard’s recovery from an Achilles injury, but up until yesterday, word was that he would not be with the big league club until after the All-Star break. I guess desperate times really do call for desperate measures.
At this point in the season, is it really worth pushing Howard ahead of schedule? The Phillies currently are 13 games out of the division and 8.5 out of the wild card race. If Howard is fully recovered, bringing him up after one game at triple-A could be a genius move, but it also could be one last attempt to try to make something good out of this season that appears destined to fail. Since the Phils brought back Chase Utley, he has filled a large void in the middle of the lineup yet they still continue to lose. Will Howard make that much of a difference, or will the bullpen and depleted starting pitching continue to cost the Phillies games?
Howard has been on fire hitting in the minors, but he has barely played the field and he looks to be far from the baseball shape he was in the last couple of years. It goes without saying, he is the center piece of the Phillies lineup. All anti-Howard fans can look at the struggles of the team this year and may now acknowledge that he was instrumental in the past success of the five-time division champs.
The way that I see it, the Phillies have two weeks to prove to themselves and their general manager that they can still win and push for the wild card. Winning the division is, most likely, not going to happen. The only way the Nats lose a 13-game lead is if catastrophic injuries occur to Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez at the same time. I doubt that will happen, and truthfully, I do not want it to happen. The Nats have played the game with a flare the Phillies usually have. They look like they care. The Phillies, at times, look like they don’t.
At 7 p.m., the “Big Piece” makes his season debut. At the very least, he will bring with him a sense of hope for Philadelphia, which, sadly, is something to look forward to for Phillies fans. It has been a rough year so far. Things can only get better … right?