Ryan Howard’s spot on the Phillies’ roster has been a consistent source of speculation for the past three to four seasons, but despite the fact that he’s having a career-worst year in the final season of his contract, GM Matt Klentak implied in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter link) that Howard isn’t in danger of losing that spot. “He’s a threat to change the game with a home run every time he steps in the box,” said Klentak to hosts Jody McDonald and Cliff Floyd. “As long as that’s the case, he’ll be in there.” Howard is batting just .160/.226/.359 in 146 plate appearances, though he does have eight homers on the year.
A couple more from the NL East…
- Mets assistant GM John Ricco was also a guest on MLB Network Radio recently (audio link), where he discussed Matt Harvey’s status in the rotation. “We have a team that’s built to go to the World Series, and we have to think about what’s best for the team,” said Ricco. “But right now, we believe the best thing for the team is getting Matt back on track, and the best way to do that is to keep him in the big leagues working with [pitching coach] Dan Warthen. We saw some positive signs the other night, in terms of the metrics we look at.” Asked specifically which metrics that statement referenced, Ricco explained that in addition to the traditional eye test from the coaching staff, technology provides quantifiable data on Harvey’s arm angle, arm extension, release point and other mechanically inclined metrics, which give the Mets confidence that he’s making some strides.
- Newsday’s Marc Carig writes that with the struggles of Kevin Plawecki and injury to Travis d’Arnaud, the Mets could eventually be forced into looking for catching help on the summer trade market. Ricco spoke to Carig and defended both backstops, asserting that both have proven to be above-average offensive players in the past. Plawecki, however, has batted just .210/.282/.288 in 356 big league plate appearances — a far cry from his .262/.318/.392 batting line in 260 Triple-A plate appearances. And d’Arnaud, of course, has consistently struggled to stay off the disabled list throughout his big league tenure. Carig speculates that Jonathan Lucroy would be a strong fit for the Mets, and it’s hard to argue with the logic. Lucroy could even help out at first base in the absence of Lucas Duda, as he has appeared in 43 games there across the past four seasons.
- Phillies right-hander Mark Appel has been placed on the minor league disabled list with a strained right shoulder, tweets Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Appel, the former No. 1 overall pick acquired by the Phillies in this offseason’s Ken Giles blockbuster, has been experiencing diminished velocity of late, Breen notes. The extent of the injury is unclear, but it appears possible that the shoulder has been bother Appel for a few starts; he’s allowed 15 earned runs in his past 16 1/3 innings after getting off to a nice start with the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate.
- ESPN’s Keith Law has published an updated list of the game’s Top 25 prospects (Insider subscription required and recommended), and it’s headlined by a pair of NL East prospects: Nationals right-hander Lucas Giolito (No. 1) and Phillies shortstop J.P. Crawford (No. 2). Law provides some insight into each of the 25 names on his ranking and also lists five honorable mentions that narrowly missed the cut.