Howard enters Spring Training with challenges ahead

Phillies first baseman begins camp with plenty of questions surrounding his present and future

Howard enters Spring Training with challenges ahead

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies are rolling out the veterans this week at Bright House Field. Cliff Lee will speak to reporters on Thursday. Jonathan Papelbon follows him Friday, with Cole Hamels on Saturday and Chase Utley on Monday.

Phillies fans are curious to hear what they have to say about returning to a team headed in a different direction.

Ryan Howard is not scheduled to speak to reporters, but perhaps that announcement will come. He might be the most interesting Phils player to hear from, considering his offseason.

Howard finalized a legal battle with his family. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said publicly and privately the organization would be better without him.

"Right now, unless he gets unseated, he's the first baseman," manager Ryne Sandberg said Wednesday. "He needs to prepare himself to be the best first baseman he can be."

Sandberg on state of Phillies

But certainly it is not a stretch to think Howard feels a little unwanted or unappreciated. That could create tension in camp.

Sandberg said he spoke with Howard about a month ago.

"I know he got a lot of things off his mind, coming from him," Sandberg said. "Ryan was very positive with the conversation. He wanted to be part of the process here with the younger players that we might have in camp. [He wanted to] be that type of a guy. He's been a Philadelphia Phillie. He considers himself a Phillie right now, so for him to take pride in that and going forward help out with the process, that's something he can also help out with.

"We can get younger around Ryan Howard and have some youth and some hop around him. Like I said, if he gets to where he can really contribute, I'm anxious to see him and see where he's at and to see if he can be a guy who can raise his game and help us win. I'm confident in Ryan in bouncing back and having that type of year."

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