Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg dropped Howard to fifth against Texas left-hander Martin Perez. Marlon Byrd hit fourth, splitting up the left-handed-hitting Chase Utley and Howard. Sandberg split the lefties with Byrd four times in Spring Training, a good indication he would make the move in the regular season.
"He's the manager," Howard said. "I don't make the lineup. Whatever the lineup is, that's what the lineup is. As far as spots and stuff, wherever my name is, that's where I'm supposed to hit."
Sandberg made other platoon-type moves, playing John Mayberry Jr. in left field and Jayson Nix at third base instead of Domonic Brown and Cody Asche, respectively.
"I've talked with him about it," Sandberg said about Howard. "I've talked to him a couple of times about that, the reasons for it. I noticed in the Spring Training games -- I think he had four or five -- two of those games he had two hits and he had one hit in the other. So he had some success there. The fifth spot is still an RBI spot with men on base. It's a power spot. It's still a good spot for him, regardless."
Howard deferred to the manager when asked about the change.
But does he have a preference?
"I don't know," he said.
There are reasons for the adjustment. The Phillies ranked 22nd in baseball last season against lefties with a .679 OPS, a number which must improve. Byrd had a .959 OPS against lefties last season, which ranked 13th out of 173 qualifying players in baseball. Meanwhile, Howard has a .602 OPS against lefties from 2011-14, which ranks 203 out of 213 qualifying players.
"Yeah, it's noteworthy," Howard said. "But at the same time … I'm not even going to go there. I really have nothing to say about it. I'm going to stay away from all of that. Just try to keep everything on the up and up. You say the wrong thing and then all of a sudden … people just misconstrue or whatever. That's not what I want to have happen."
Regarding the other moves, Sandberg said: "Different lefties are different, but for this lefty tonight, I like this lineup with the balance. I also like to play the whole roster and get everybody in."
Sandberg said it isn't just numbers he's looking at, either.
"That's only part of the equation," he said. "Some of it's feel, some of it's what's going on. It's all that combined. I don't just look at splits and base everything on that. There's gut feelings, there's team strategy, there's days off for players, a break for this guy, this guy needs some at-bats and to get in. It's all those things."