As if the 2013 season hadn’t been frustrating enough for the Philadelphia Phillies, the team received even more bad news on Monday as they learned that first baseman Ryan Howard would need to undergo surgery on his ailing left knee to repair a torn medial meniscus. The slugger will miss at least 6-8 weeks following surgery, which has not yet been scheduled according to MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki.
He could potentially return in late August if rehab progresses as planned, but that is far from a guarantee.
Injuries have started to tarnish what was a dominant career for Howard. This marks the fourth time he’s been forced to miss significant time, all for injuries to his left leg. The injuries, coupled with his inconsistencies, have led many to question the hefty contract extension that the team gave him that runs through the 2016 season (with a team option for 2017 that seems highly unlikely to be exercised). At $25 Million per season the team just simply expected more from the bat they thought would remain in the middle of their lineup for years to come.
Howard struggled to a .266/.319/.465 line in 317 PA on the year before landing on the disabled list. He’s added 11 HR but has already struck out 95 times. His at bats will be given to Darin Ruf in the interim, who the Phillies have to be hoping will seize the opportunity. Ruf’s spent the year with Triple-A Lehigh Valley before being called up with Howard landing on the DL. He’s hit .266/.344/.408 with 7 HR in 349 PA on the year, but he’s seen a significant power outage from last season when he hit 38 HR at Double-A Reading.
Howard’s absence will certainly be noticed in Philadelphia, as he still carried a strong presence despite struggling at the plate. His absence may also signify the official end to the Phillies’ hopes this season, potentially nudging the team towards being sellers before this month’s trade deadline instead of adding pieces for a potential playoff run.