Tightness: It's important because it's Ryan Howard.So the sight of Howard with his left thigh wrapped after Sunday's game was a noticeable event. "It's tight right now, a little sore," Howard said as he left the clubhouse. "I'm stretching it, icing it and stuff, taking care of it." Howard didn't remember a particular play or movement he made that caused the discomfort, and doesn't expect it to become an issue. "Just too much first-step quickness," he said, laughing. Constant reminder: The patches will serve as a reminder. The team debuted its black patches with "Vuk" written in white lettering, to honor the memory of John Vukovich, who passed away on Thursday at 59. They will wear them all season. "It's hard to think he's no longer here," bullpen coach Ramon Henderson said. "I still expect to hear his voice." Henderson is among a contingent of Phillies players and coaches planning to attend Vukovich's funeral. He'll be flying up to Pennylvania with Yankees right fielder Bobby Abreu. Though Vukovich hasn't coached for two years, his presence is always felt. The patch is just a symbol. "He hasn't coached for a couple of years, but that doesn't mean you forget when he was out there," left fielder Pat Burrell said. "I miss him." In addition to team president David Montgomery, chairman Bill Giles and general manager Pat Gillick, many members from the team's Major League and Minor League staffs plan to attend the funeral. Nine players and four coaches are attending, along with Manuel. Phillies alumni expected to attend include Ruben Amaro Jr., Larry Andersen, Bob Boone, Larry Bowa, Mike Compton, Darren Daulton, Lenny Dykstra, Lee Elia, Jim Fregosi, Dallas Green, Greg Gross, Von Hayes, Dave Hollins, Tommy Hutton, Pete Incaviglia, Kevin Jordan, Joe Kerrigan, Darold Knowles, John Kruk, Greg Luzinski, Jerry Martin, Gary Matthews, Dickie Noles, Mike Schmidt and Gary Varsho. Umpires Jerry Crawford and Bruce Froemming, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, Tampa Bay senior advisor Don Zimmer, as well as former Phillies Abreu, Curt Schilling, Scott Rolen, Tim McCarver, Ruben Amaro Sr., Mike Lieberthal and Randy Wolf will also be there. Madson making new pitch: At the request of pitching coach Rich Dubee, righty reliever Ryan Madson has ditched his inconsistent curveball and is developing a slider. He said he threw six of them in his outing against the Rays on Saturday, and will continue honing it. An effective third pitch to add to his fastball-changeup can only help. Madson's hopes the slider -- a ball that breaks later and side-to-side as it reaches the plate -- will be easier to control. A second offspeed pitch would be an effective weapon, especially against right-handers. "I just do what I'm told," Madson said. "I'm making progress every day. It's a new pitch. The big thing is trusting it." Philling in: With two hits, Shane Victorino is now batting .448 this spring. Greg Dobbs went hitless and is hitting .444. ... With the Phillies reportedly receiving unattractive offers for No. 6 starter Jon Lieber, they are tossing around the idea of pitching him or Adam Eaton out of the bullpen. While their preference is starting, both have said they are willing to do whatever is asked of them. Up next: With Brett Myers scheduled to throw in a Minor League game, prospect J.A. Happ will start against the Astros on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET at Bright House Networks Field.
Happ, a rookie left-hander in his first big-league Spring Training, has allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings this spring. He has rocketed through the system since being a third-round pick in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less