"Al-bert! Al-bert! Al-bert!"
Howard on Monday morning addressed an ESPN.com story that the Phillies have discussed proposing a Howard-for-Albert Pujols swap. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said, "It's unequivocally false," on Sunday night.
Howard gathered his thoughts before he addressed reporters in the Phillies' clubhouse at Bright House Field. Victorino said Pujols' name in the distance, ending the interview as Howard cracked up.
"I don't really have anything to say about it, to be honest with you, really, truthfully," Howard said. "I can go back to all the stuff that happened when I was in Double-A and all the talk about trade rumors and that kind of stuff. To be honest, I don't know anything about anything. I'm not really focused on it. If that were the case, which I don't know if it is or not or whatever, it is what it is. Just keep going out there and just keep doing your thing. If you do get a call saying you're traded, just say you're traded. But until that happens, I'm still a Phillie, I'm still here. So let's ride it out."
Howard, who becomes a free agent along with Pujols following the 2011 season, said he wasn't surprised to hear the names in the report.
"No, because I don't believe anything until it's done," he said.
Pujols had a similar reaction.
"You know, that's not the first time," Pujols said before the Cardinals' Monday afternoon Grapefruit League loss to the Mets. "It's probably the first time it was in the news, but two years ago, somebody said that I was going to get traded to the Cubs. And I was like, 'Pfft.' People always try to speculate and try to start something so they can say, 'I was the first guy.'"
Teams frequently deny trade rumors or interest in players. Many times those denials hold true. Sometimes they don't. Former Phillies general manager Pat Gillick denied an ESPN.com report in 2007 that the Phillies would make a contract offer to free-agent third baseman Mike Lowell. A day or two later, they made him a four-year, $50 million offer. Amaro threw cold water on reports throughout the winter that the Phillies had intentions to trade for Roy Halladay. A few weeks later they got him.
But Amaro sounded particularly upset with this report.
"It's unfair to Ryan," he said. "It's unfair to the organization to have to answer the questions."
Howard answered a few questions Monday, including if St. Louis would be interesting to him.
"As far as what? Living there?" he said. "St. Louis is my home, but as far as all this other stuff, I'm a Phillie."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.