Phillies fans are witnessing something they have not seen since 2009. They are seeing a red hot Ryan Howard. The big piece is having his best start to a season in five years.
After emerging as the top power-hitter in the game, resulting in a rookie of the year award and a 2006 MVP trophy, Howard tore his Achilles tendon on the final pitch of game seven of the NLDS against the Cardinals back in 2011.
Year after year fans watched as Howard could not return to form. The power numbers shrunk, as did games played. Howard did not put together a full season again until 2014. His strikeouts rose dramatically and his defense suffered as well.
This season, the slugger is showing he may just have some baseball left to play. After a very sluggish start consisting of an April where he hit .194 and didn’t connect for his first dinger 14 games into the season, Howard is being more aggressive.
Swinging at first pitches and working counts has led to respectable numbers such as .270/.313/.546 with 10 homers and 24 RBI (as of Tuesday afternoon).
At 35-years-old, Howard will still never return to his prime form, however his recent renaissance may open the eyes of All-Star voters.
Howard ranks second among National League first basemen in home runs and fourth in slugging percentage. His bat would have to remain hot into June as he ranks behind heavy hitters Adrian Gonzalez, Paul Goldschmidt and Anthony Rizzo, all of whom boast above .300 batting averages thus far.
If Howard continues this surge, he could hit his way out of Philadelphia. Many believe he is auditioning his hot bat and is increasing his trade value, especially for DH-hungry American League teams.
“I don’t really want to talk about the interest, but I will tell you that Ryan playing well really helps us,” Phillies GM Ruben Amaro told CSNPhilly.com.
Howard has brought surprise to many and could potentially join current teammates Freddy Galvis or Jonathon Papelbon in Cincinnati at the mid-season classic.
The resurging season for Howard is giving the slugger a boost of confidence, one that may be beneficial for the rebuild that is in the beginning stages for the Phillies.
It would be special for some to see the big piece representing the Phils and the National League one more time. To others, it may be more special to see Darin Ruf become the everyday starter beginning in August, after the trade deadline.