PHILADELPHIA -- General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Friday afternoon that he believes Ryan Howard still has a future with the Phillies.
"I fully expect him to be our first baseman next year," Amaro said. "I don't know where people are coming up with him not having a future with us. He's a very big part of our organization."
Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg benched Howard for the third consecutive game Friday, and he said Thursday there could be a platoon situation at first base going forward. Howard, the highest paid player in baseball this season, is owed at least $60 million through 2017, which makes the possibility of a platoon a strong indication the Phillies are looking at other options for the future.
Sources also said the Phillies have discussed multiple scenarios about Howard's future, including the possibility of releasing him in the offseason. Asked about that, Amaro said, "All I can tell you is that's not in our best interest. It's not something that we've discussed."
Amaro denied this is a matter of a player not being good enough to play every day. Instead, he said, it is a measure meant to get him back on track.
"Let him mentally get regrouped," Amaro said. "Listen, everyone needs a break. And I think that's more of what this is about than anything else. All of us want Ryan to be back and for Ryan to be as productive as he can be. I think that's the goal. … We're hopeful. We went through this with Pat Burrell. He had some good years, some bad years and some years in between. I think that's a part of the baseball process, particularly when you get older. Chase Utley went down and became an All-Star. It's not out of the realm of possibility. A guy can have a poor year one year and a great year the next."
Howard's .682 OPS entering Friday was 207 points lower than his .889 career mark and 36 points below his career low (.718 in 2012). His .377 slugging percentage is 155 points lower than his career average (.532) and 46 points below his career low (.423 in 2012).
"I don't have any issue with his effort," Amaro said. "There's some combination of relaxation and focus, there's some combination in there that will help him get there. We'll see. It's not about [upsetting him]. I think it's more about ... giving him a break to get away from it.
"We don't expect Ryan to be the Ryan Howard of '06, '07, '08. But we know he's a more productive player than he has been over this past month."