"I don't think I'll play him the rest of the year," Mackanin said before Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. "I don't see the point of that."
Howard has not played since Sept. 14 because of a bruised left knee. He has been slow to recover and has not seen live pitching since he suffered the injury, unlike teammate Maikel Franco, who is scheduled to play Game 2 following a lengthy absence with a broken left wrist. Franco had played five games recently in Clearwater, Fla.
If Howard's season is finished, one has to wonder if it could be the end of his Phillies career. Howard hit .229 with 29 doubles, one triple, 23 home runs, 77 RBIs and a .720 OPS in 129 games. He posted an .802 OPS against right-handed pitchers, which ranked 54th out of 144 qualified hitters in baseball. But he posted a .418 OPS against left-handers, which is the ninth-lowest mark in baseball in the past 20 seasons (minimum 100 plate appearances against lefties).
Howard is set to make $25 million in salary next season, plus a $10 million buyout on a 2017 club option.
The Phillies have tried hard to trade Howard since last offseason, telling teams they would pay almost the entirety of his contract. But Howard's struggles against lefties, plus his defensive and baserunning issues, have made American League teams reluctant to acquire him.
If Howard and Darin Ruf return next season, it seems very likely Mackanin uses a straight platoon at first with Howard starting only against right-handers and Ruf starting mostly against left-handers, although he has shown recently he can hit right-handed pitching when provided the opportunity.
Ruf's 1.122 OPS against left-handers is the best in baseball (minimum 100 plate appearances against lefties).
Mackanin could announce any possible coaching staff changes following Sunday's game.
Hitting coach Steve Henderson and pitching coach Bob McClure are expected to return. Bench coach Larry Bowa could return, if he chooses to continue his coaching career. He said recently he has not decided what he wants to do.
Phillies first-base coach Juan Samuel said recently he is open to returning, although he also said he does not want to finish his career as a first-base coach. He also is interested in pursuing a managerial career.
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.