Howard's role reduced further against left-handers

Mackanin tells first baseman he will get pinch-hit for vs. southpaws

Howard's role reduced further against left-handers

PHILADELPHIA -- And then there were two.

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard made that memorable comment last month, when the Phillies traded Chase Utley to the Dodgers. The trade left Howard and Carlos Ruiz as the only remaining members of the Phillies' 2008 World Series championship team.

It is too early to say if Howard will be back in 2016, but if he returns, his role is expected to be much different than it has been in the past. Howard went 1-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs in Sunday's 7-4 victory over the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park. He hit a sacrifice fly to center field in the first inning to tie the game, 1-1. He hit a two-run home run to right field in the third to give the Phillies a 4-1 lead.

It was Howard's first homer since Aug. 25.

Howard's two-run homer

Howard, who left the clubhouse before it opened to reporters, is 3-for-7 with two doubles, a home run and four RBIs since snapping a 0-for-35 skid in Game 2 of Friday night's doubleheader. He is hitting .228 (106-for-464) with 29 doubles, a triple, 22 home runs, 76 RBIs and a .714 OPS this season, but he has a .418 OPS in 107 plate appearances against left-handers.

If Howard had enough plate appearances to qualify, his OPS against lefties would be 56 points lower than Pablo Sandoval's .474 OPS against lefties, which qualifies as the lowest out of 159 batters.

Howard's sac fly

Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin already has told Howard he will not start against left-handed pitchers this season. In fact, Howard has started just twice against 17 left-handers since Mackanin replaced Ryne Sandberg in June.

Mackanin also previously had told Howard he would not pinch-hit him against lefties as a sign of respect. The situation presented itself again in the seventh inning when Howard struck out swinging on four pitches with a runner on third and one out against Cubs left-hander Clayton Richard.

"I've spoken to Howie and in certain situations I have told him that I will pinch-hit for him," Mackanin said afterward. "I reconsidered my position. He was fine with it. Well, he wasn't fine with it, but I told him I was going to do that. Now in that situation if I would have hit for him there I thought they might bring in a right-hander, so I gave him an opportunity there. And I wanted him in the game late to face their closer or setup guy.

"I just reconsidered my thinking on that. I didn't want it to become an issue for Howie, as much as he's meant to the organization. He and I spoke about it. We're not in agreement, but he understands."

It seems to be the way to go, considering Howard's struggles against lefties. He has posted a .620 OPS against lefties from 2011-15, which is 235th out of 253 qualified hitters.

"Part of the conversation that we had, had to do with just that -- you can get your act together against lefties in Spring Training next year. You can work on that," Mackanin said. "But this year we'd like to maintain some energy that we developed over the second half of the year. We'd like to win a few games, which creates the energy."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.