CHICAGO -- Ryne Sandberg said he is encouraged with what he has seen this week from Ryan Howard.
Howard is hitting .294 (5-for-17) with one double, one home run, three RBIs, two walks and eight strikeouts. He put up those numbers despite facing three left-handed starting pitchers in the season's first four games. Howard's extra-base hits and every RBI have come against a lefty in big situations. His single to right field in the fourth inning Friday against Cubs left-hander Travis Wood advanced Marlon Byrd from first to third. Byrd scored the Phillies' first run in a 7-2 victory on an infield single from Domonic Brown.
The only things hampering Howard have been swings and misses at pitches outside the strike zone.
"I liked the aggressiveness in his swings," Sandberg said. "I think there is more bat speed. That's come a long way since the middle part of Spring Training. With that being said, when he gets a pitch in the zone with that swing, he can do some damage for us. He just needs to concentrate on making them come to him. There are some bats behind him. Take some walks if they give them. Ball in the zone, he can make something happen."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.