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Howard returns to lineup as DH vs. Rays

Howard back in lineup at DH vs. Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- Ryan Howard entered the visitors' clubhouse at Tropicana Field on Tuesday to find Shane Victorino and Milt Thompson covering their faces with makeshift masks.

Howard has been sick lately, and they jokingly let him know they didn't want to catch what he had.

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Howard had two hospital visits over the weekend in Philadelphia, which included a CT scan Sunday that determined he had acute sinusitis. He did not fly with the team to Florida on Monday to give him more time to rest, coming on Tuesday instead.

"Am I 100 percent?" Howard said before a 10-1 victory over the Rays. "No, but I'm a lot better. I'd probably say about 75, 80 percent. Right now, it's just mostly congestion. Those two days really helped as far as getting better."

Howard felt good enough that Phillies manager Charlie Manuel hit him fourth as his designated hitter, and Howard rewarded the skipper by going 1-for-4 with an RBI double in the first inning.

Howard said afterward he felt fine during the game. The slugger said he isn't sure if he will be able to play in the field Wednesday. Manuel had Chris Coste play first base while Howard served as the DH in the series opener. Manuel originally had Howard at first and Coste the DH, but the manager said he changed his mind because he didn't want Howard on his feet for nine innings.

"He's been on medication," Manuel said. "He's still a little drowsy or whatever you want to say. He's all right."

Howard hit a pinch-hit go-ahead three-run homer in a loss Saturday to the Orioles after his first trip to the hospital. It was the second time in his career he hit a pinch-hit homer a night after he had been hospitalized.

Howard hit a game-tying pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning against the Reds on May 14, 2006, after being hospitalized with food poisoning. Howard stayed in the game and hit a game-winning solo homer in the 12th inning to win the game.

How did Howard do it twice?

"I don't know. I have no idea," Howard said. "I felt kind of worn down. It was one of those things like, 'All right, just try to see something. Just try to get the bat going and be patient.' I think sometimes the pitcher is like, 'This guy has been in the hospital. He's probably weak. He hasn't been in the game so his bat probably is going to be slow.' Maybe it kind of helps you key in on what you're looking for. Not so much that you're super focused on it, but, 'I've got energy for one good swing.'"

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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