PHILADELPHIA -- Everybody knows Ryan Howard has struggled tremendously against left-handers, especially opposing managers, who happily run a steady stream of lefties at him in critical parts of the game.
Howard has a mere .604 on-base-plus-slugging percentage against lefties from 2011-13, including a 1-for-15 effort with one double, one walk and eight strikeouts against them this season. His .604 OPS against lefties ranks 170th out of 178 qualifying players in baseball during that span. (Coincidentally, Jimmy Rollins ranks 169th with a .605 mark.) Howard has nine home runs, 18 walks and 108 strikeouts in 283 plate appearances against lefties in that stretch.
So it made perfect sense to rest Howard against Cardinals left-hander Jaime Garcia on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park, although Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Howard did not play because he has tightness in his right groin.
He said Howard is day to day.
But Manuel also acknowledged Howard's struggles against lefties, when he said, "This is a good time, gives me a chance to sit him down."
Manuel said Howard was available to pinch-hit but wasn't needed in the 8-2, rain-shortened win. Kevin Frandsen got the start at first base, and though he didn't get a hit in his two at-bats, he walked, reached on an error and scored twice. It was his first start of the season, despite the fact he hit .338 with 10 doubles, three triples, two home runs and 14 RBIs last season, including a .400 (26-for-65) mark against left-handers.
Maybe Frandsen can find playing time at first base when the Phillies face lefties. In the meantime, he will just try to be ready to play.
"You go in the cage and work your butt off and when the time comes [to play] you hope you're prepared," Frandsen said. "It is tough when you go a while without getting a lot of at-bats, but that's part of the job. It's not about a complaint. That's what my role is. Obviously, it is a lot different when you're playing every day. Last year I got that chance. I proved that I could do it every day. I hit [close to] .340. You hope that didn't get lost in the shuffle with everything."
Frandsen played 1 1/3 innings at first base over the weekend in Miami. He has played 34 innings there in his big league career, plus some more in the Minor Leagues.
"I've got a glove in my hand, so I feel comfortable there," he said. "That's all that matters to me."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.