Howard’s blast keys Phillies as offense comes alive

Production from the Phillies’ committee of first basemen during the first half of last season was abysmal.

Charlie Manuel would tell anyone within earshot how much the Phils missed Ryan Howard.

Well, the Big Piece appears to have recovered nicely from his Achillies tendon surgery. Howard beat up Atlanta’s pitching Thursday to help the Phillies coast to a 10-5 win over their division rival.

After slugging an RBI double down the right-field line off starting left-hander Paul Maholm, Howard blasted a fastball off Craig Kimbrel over the left center-field fence.

“I’m just taking everything in stride,” Howard said. “I’m not trying to analyze anything. I’m just working hard on what I’m doing. I’m getting good swings right now. I’m feeling good. I have no complaints.”

Manuel smiled when waxing about his cleanup hitter.

“He was totally relaxed and stayed on the ball,” Manuel said. “The ball was out from him and he stayed with it.”

Howard, Chase Utley, Ben Revere and Darin Ruf each had a pair of hits.

“You know this team can do a lot of damage,” Howard said. “We know what we’re capable of.”

Cole Hamels, who allowed one run, pitched three solid innings. He struck out five and worked his way out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam.

“I felt good,” Hamels said. “I’m just trying to get the pitch count up. It’s all going to come. But this was good.”

Revere executed a perfect bunt single.

“That’s something that I’ve worked very hard on,” Revere said. “I wasn’t the best bunter, but I’ve gotten better at it. It’s my job to get on base, score and play solid defense.”

Meanwhile, Ruf is still having a rough time in left field. He misplayed his second grounder there in three games.

“Darin is going to make some mistakes,” Manuel said. “Hopefully, he can keep working and we’ll see how much he improves by the end of spring.”

Adams throws scoreless frame in Phils victory
If this is a sign of things to come, the Phils won’t have anything to worry about in the eighth inning.

Mike Adams made his spring training debut Thursday and tossed a scoreless fourth inning against Atlanta. Adams, who inked a two-year, $12 million deal in the offseason, allowed one hit and struck out one. He retired three of the four batters he faced.

Philadelphia Phillies v Detroit Tigers
Howard hit a solo shot off Craig Kimbrel in the fifth inning of the Phillies’ 10-5 win over Atlanta Thursday afternoon.

Adams was signed to be Jonathan Papelbon’s setup man, so he’ll normally work the eighth. He is coming back from offseason surgery to correct a condition called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Adams wasn’t slated to debut until the first week of March, but the Phils say he is ahead of schedule.


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