ESPNews reports the Philadelphia Phillies have placed first baseman Ryan Howard (quadriceps) on the 15-day disabled list.
Nagging leg injuries had been a problem for Howard from the season's inception. In late April, he missed a few games with a minor sprain in the ligament just below his knee. Then, a week into May, the Phillies revealed that lingering soreness in Howard's quadriceps had become a problem for the slugger. Manager Charlie Manuel said the malady wasn't serious enough to require a stint on the disabled list, but the club did decide to keep him out of the starting lineup for a few days.
Howard was reportedly expected to miss the team's series with the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier in the week. However, he unexpectedly entered one of the games as a pinch-hitter and belted a go-ahead grand slam that propelled Philadelphia to a 9-3 victory. That gave fans and fantasy players hope that perhaps Howard was on the mend. There was also hope he would be able to return to action by Friday, May 11, as the team had hoped.
Philadelphia's optimism was obviously not enough to keep Howard off the disabled list, however. The 2005 NL Rookie of the Year had been underperforming with the bat this season, hitting .204 with six home runs and 23 RBI. Manuel admitted that the quadriceps had been affecting Howard since spring training.
Such secrecy is the stuff that fantasy frustrations are made of. For owners that spent a first-round selection on Howard's big bat, this sort of thing might actually be a blessing. If the Phillies were willing to let Howard play through the injury despite the fact that it was hindering his swing, perhaps rest and rehab can restore Howard to his All-Star form.
In the meantime, though, fantasy leaguers must seek an alternative. First base is not typically a position that one would like to fill with a free agent, so the odds wouldn't appear to be in such an unfortunate owner's favor.
There are a couple of options that could fit the bill, though. It will be nearly impossible to replace Howard's power potential, but a band-aid with a hot bat should tide owners over. Oakland Athletics first baseman Dan Johnson has been on an absolute tear since his activation from the disabled list. In the last week of April, Johnson went 4-for-15 with two RBI. This month, however, he has been a monster, batting .472 with four home runs and 10 RBI in 36 at-bats.
Two other names to consider are Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Ryan Doumit and Cleveland Indians first baseman Ryan Garko. Doumit has been on a hot streak of his own since a call-up last month. Before his 11-game hit streak ended Saturday, May 12, Doumit was hitting .447 with two home runs and seven RBI in 47 at-bats. He is eligible at first base, in addition to catcher, in many fantasy leagues; the catcher eligibility could make him fantasy worthy after Howard returns. Garko has been getting a lot of time at first since Cleveland placed third baseman Andy Marte (hamstring) on the disabled list. Garko is hitting .286 with four home runs and 10 RBI in 91 at-bats. This month he's 12-for-36 with two home runs.
Howard owners should place him in a DL spot or stash him on the bench. Don't fall victim to lowball trade offers at this stage, because Howard could come back to life once he returns.
About Nicholas Minnix
Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.
The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.
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