PHOENIX -- Whether it's his nagging left quadriceps muscle, the strained ligament in his left knee, or his mighty and well-documented struggles to find rhythm, the reality is that Ryan Howard, the reigning National League MVP, won't see his name in a starting lineup until Friday. At least. The Phillies' first baseman will sit this series against the Diamondbacks, which features two left-handers in Doug Davis (Monday) and Randy Johnson (Wednesday). Thursday is an off-day, so Howard will receive four straight days of rest, and won't have played for five of the past six days.
He needs a break. "We want to give him a rest to see if we can get his aches and pains well," manager Charlie Manuel said. "Things that have been bothering him like his quad and knee. We want to get him 100 percent." When the Phillies return home, Howard will be examined by physician Michael Ciccotti to determine the extent of the discomfort. If Howard's still not right, the team will consider placing him on the disabled list. Assuming Howard doesn't pinch-hit, such a move could be retroactive to May 7, meaning he wouldn't have to miss another two weeks from that point. After sitting out Saturday against the Giants' Noah Lowry, Howard homered against Tim Lincecum on Sunday. "We'll wait and see how it goes down," Howard said. "In a couple of days, hopefully it'll feel better. If not ..." Howard is at the Mendoza line (.200) this season in 95 at-bats, with five homers and 19 RBIs. Though he barely addressed his plight Monday, he spoke in detail about his disappointing start on Sunday. "As bad as this is, I want to say it's good because it's a learning experience," Howard said. "Nobody wants to go through [it], but you have to look at it for what it is. Not everything is peaches and cream. In my eyes, so far [my teammates] have carried me for the first month and a half. It feels like when you're not out there performing, it's letting them down and you don't want to be that guy." Like it or not, Howard has been that guy after a 58-homer, 149-RBI season in 2006. It's up to the Phillies to find out why. Painful freak injuries: Wes Helms watched the news regarding Detroit reliever Joel Zumaya's freak finger injury that will sideline the hard-throwing righty three months, and could only shake his head. In 2004, a spill in the wet tunnel at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Puerto Rico, where his Brewers were playing the Expos, required knee surgery and cost him six weeks. "I crawled into the trainer's room, and they were laughing at me," Helms said, describing the initial reaction. "I couldn't move my knee. I heard a pop, and it scared me. You can't take anything for granted in this game. It took all that [joking around] out of me. If I get hurt, I want to get hurt on the field. I don't want to get hurt horsing around." Neither Helms nor Zumaya were horsing around, but Helms' point is: Why take unnecessary risks? Seeing Freddy Garcia (also not a risk-taker) crashing into the cart also took Helms back, and he breathed a sigh of relief that his teammate was able to make his start. "I get angry now when I see guys horsing around now," Helms said. "I get on them. They think I'm an idiot, but I say, 'I'm the one who slipped. It happened to me and it can happen to anybody. I was just walking and the next thing I know I was on my back.'" Despite the serious nature, Helms was able to smile at the story of Adam Eaton, who still takes the prize for one of the freakier injuries. In 2001, the right-hander stabbed himself in the abdomen while opening a DVD package and had his start pushed back a day because of it. "Yeah, I did that," Eaton said. "I was trying to open DVDs with a knife, and [Garcia] was trying to catch a fly ball. His is a little more explainable, I guess. One isn't his fault, and one is my fault. His was a circumstance thing. I had the ER doctor ask me if I was trying to commit suicide." Philling in: Right-hander Ryan Madson had an MRI and CAT Scan performed on his strained left oblique, and it showed no tears. The team expects that he'll begin throwing this weekend, when the team comes back from Arizona. He's eligible to return on May 19. ... Right-hander Tom Gordon told the team he's feeling much better, but he will undergo an MRI on Tuesday. He isn't expected to throw until at least next week. ... Lefty Cole Hamels' double Sunday was the 10th hit by a pitcher this season. Phillies pitchers have 10 hits this year, the third-best total in the NL. Coming up: Eaton is scheduled to start in Game 2 of this series at 9:40 p.m. ET on Tuesday against Arizona righty Micah Owings. The right-hander continues to have trouble providing length in his starts. He tossed five solid innings in his previous outing against the Giants on May 3 but labored and couldn't get out of the sixth. He's 3-3 with a 3.79 ERA in his career against the D-backs.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.