Notes: Howard relishes first steal

Notes: Howard relishes first steal

PHILADELPHIA -- Ryan Howard wanted to hoist second base over his head and exclaim, "I am the greatest!" He just knew better.

"I didn't want to get drilled my next time up," Howard said, with a laugh.

Still, along with a Rookie of the Year Award, National League Most Valuable Player Award and becoming the fastest hitter to reach 100 homers, Howard may have added his most impressive feat: A stolen base, something he pilfered off Los Angeles' Rudy Seanez on Tuesday.

He asked for the base as a memento, and had it by his locker on Wednesday. Teammate Shane Victorino, who returned from the disabled list, taped a note to the base that read, "I am the greatest," referencing Rickey Henderson's famous quote after he broke Lou Brock's all-time record.

"That's going in the trophy room," Howard said. "It may be the centerpiece. This is more for Jimmy [Rollins], Shane and Mike Bourn, the fast guys. They can't talk anymore."

Neither can the baseball statisticians, who must remove Howard's name from a list he never wanted to be on. Since 1900, only four non-pitchers had more career plate appearances without a stolen base than the big guy, according to baseball-reference.com. He entered Tuesday's game five plate appearances away from passing former outfielder Al Ferrara, whose nickname was "The Bull."

The other three, Russ Nixon (2,714), Aaron Robinson (2,189) and Johnny Estrada (2,111) were all catchers. Howard promised "not to be that guy," guaranteeing that he wouldn't someday top Nixon. He made good.

"I didn't think he was going to run, so I didn't throw over there," Seanez said. "Next time, I will."

Howard has one caught stealing on his ledger, occurring two years ago, when he was cut down by Andy Pettitte against Houston on July 25, 2005. Pettitte's deadly pickoff move on that day cut down Howard before he had a chance to think about it.

"I was not properly briefed about the effectiveness of his move," Howard said, with a laugh, though teammate Rollins said he was well-schooled.

Howard finally quenched his thirst for the elusive steal, victimizing Seanez.

"He stole it without a play," Rollins said. "Speed kills. He was proud of all his infield hits. Now he can be proud of his first ever, and probably only ever stolen base."

Hawaiian returns to flyin' Shane Victorino tipped his cap to the fans who greeted him for the top of the first inning. He received another ovation when he came to the plate in the second inning.

Yeah, it's good to be back.

"I'm excited to be back and hopefully help this team win," Victorino said. "I feel like I'm 100 percent. There are still things I have to overcome, but I'm glad to be out here and glad to feel as good as I do."

Eaton loosening up: Adam Eaton had a productive day in right field on Wednesday -- throwing 35 pitches -- and reported improvement.

His next step will be either a bullpen session or a rehab assignment before rejoining the Phillies for the Mets series. Despite a 6.36 ERA this season, Eaton is 5-0 with a 1.89 ERA in five career starts vs. New York.

Pitching coach Rich Dubee allowed for the possibility that Eaton could slide into Fabio Castro's spot on Aug. 28, unless "Castro throws a no-hitter."

Castro is starting Thursday against Los Angeles, then could shift to the bullpen.

The manager's due: Assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. praised manager Charlie Manuel and his staff for keeping the Phillies in contention despite a litany of well-documented injuries.

"It's obviously a credit to our staff," Amaro said. "Charlie and our staff have done a fantastic job of staying even keel. No panic buttons are being pushed. They believe and we believe in the players who are here. The players deserve a lot of credit, too. They're going out there and playing, and believing they can win."

Imminent Utley: Second baseman Chase Utley took batting practice on Wednesday, inching himself that must closer to returning.

"It's a continual progression, every day," Amaro said. "We'll find out how he feels [Thursday] and take another session of BP. If it continues to go at the best pace, maybe in the next four or five days we can get him out on a rehab assignment."

Utley is still expected to return for the Mets series.

Roster move: The Phillies made a roster move after Wednesday's game, optioning OF Chris Roberson to Triple-A Ottawa and recalling RHP Geoff Geary.

Coming up: The Phillies will start Castro on Thursday, giving the young lefty his first Major League start in his 26th career appearance. He will be opposed by Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest.

Castro cut his teeth in the bullpen last season as a Rule 5 draftee, and had control issues early this season. He's had some success as a starter, posting a 4.23 ERA in six starts for Triple-A Ottawa, after returning to the rotation.

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