DENVER -- Ryan Howard has always been a bit of a slow starter, with a career .253 batting average in April and May. So it's not too surprising that in his first three games back with the Phillies this season, he's been slow out of the gate. After going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in a loss to the Rockies on Friday night, Howard entered Saturday with a .182 average. Chalk his early struggles up to ineffectiveness against left-handed pitchers -- 0-for-4 -- and nerves. "I was a little anxious, trying to make stuff happen," Howard said Friday night. "But I did calm down and felt good in my last at-bat."
Facing Rockies starter Christian Friedrich, a southpaw, Howard struck out in his first two plate appearances, then drew a walk. In the eighth inning, he grounded out. "I take positives out of those at-bats," Howard said. Howard went 10-for-20 with a home run in seven rehab assignments before joining the Phillies on July 6. He got two hits off Atlanta righty Tim Hudson in his debut, but has gone hitless since. "He needs some more at-bats," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "It may take him a few games before he starts hitting like he can." Said Howard, "I've got to see some more lefties just to get comfortable. Now it's about getting back in the groove." Manuel noted that Howard's hitting mechanics are fine and that he doesn't have a problem pushing off his surgically repaired left Achilles. "He was just jumping a little bit last night, kind of jumping out," Manuel said. "He was having a hard time controlling his adrenaline. He'll be OK."