Howard turns 'day off' vs. lefty into positive

Howard turns 'day off' vs. lefty into positive

PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard was out of the Phillies' lineup for Thursday afternoon's series finale. It was the first time this season Howard hasn't started, but Ryne Sandberg was quick to caution against reading too much into the decision even though left-hander Alex Wood started for the Braves.

"It's just an opportunity for John Mayberry to get in there and get some at bats to keep him sharp. And it also gets Ryan off his feet for a day game after a night game. That's all it is. Nothing more than that," the manager said.

Howard was 3-for-17 (.176) with eight strikeouts in 19 plate appearances against lefties entering Thursday's action. But he came through against Wood as a pinch-hitter, drawing a walk in the eighth to maintain the Phils' lone rally of the day in a 1-0 victory.

"It was a big at-bat that got the winning base hit up to home plate. So once again, he laid off pitches, he didn't go out of the zone and force anything, he took his walk and then gets to the top of the order," Sandberg said. "So it's a quality at bat right there that really set up the whole thing."

Sandberg had to have liked the approach, stressing the need for Howard to be patient at the plate before Thursday's game.

"Being in the power spot right there he still has the ability to drive in runs with the offense that we have, the guys ahead of him and the guys batting after him. So that's why it's important for him to make the pitchers come to him. A lot of the strikeouts are on balls that are out of the zone. That's something that he's aware of and trying to make the adjustment."

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