PHILADELPHIA -- First baseman Ryan Howard hit seven Grapefruit League home runs and batted .322, giving indications that he was all the way back from the ruptured Achilles tendon that cost him half the 2012 season.
In the first seven games of the regular season, he didn't have an extra-base hit, despite hitting several balls hard into the overshift that most teams employ when he's at the plate. That in turn has led to renewed chatter that he should try to beat the tactic by rolling ground balls into left.
Manager Charlie Manuel tried to put a quick end to that sort of thinking.
"He's having a little trouble with lefties, but at the same time, he's hit some balls into the shift hard, at some people," Manuel said. "And I know people are always hollering, 'Why doesn't he hit ground balls into left field?' Basically, it's because of the type of hitter he is. When they play him straightaway to the outfield and shift to the right side, they leave the left side open because he hits fly balls to left field, he doesn't hit ground balls.
"Let me put it to you like this: Ryan Howard is a big strong hitter and he hit .300 one year. Ryan Howard hits that ball from that State Farm or Gulf sign [in the left-center-field gap at Citizens Bank Park] to [the right-field foul pole]. This is where he makes his money. This is where he drives the ball hard and the ball has a good chance of falling into the stands."
The solution, Manuel suggested, is for Howard to just be a little more selective.
"He can definitely be a little more patient at the plate," Manuel said. "I think Ryan thinks that when he's at bat with somebody in scoring position that he has to knock them in. The only thing he has to do is be relaxed and get good balls to hit. When he swings at strikes, he becomes a much better hitter.
"There's always going to be talk about how good he could be if he hit the ball to left field or if he'd drop a bunt down every now and then, all those things. Well, he's not that kind of hitter. He's not that kind of player. He's a run-producer. That's how he got the contract he has, by hitting 40 and 48 and 50 [home runs]. That's how he made the money. He didn't make the money walking or hitting singles. Now, if he walks, it means he did watch the ball but he didn't get a good ball to hit. He was disciplined and he was looking for a good ball to hit."
With Phils pitchers struggling, Kratz gets day off
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies' staff ERA was 7.10 going into Monday night's series opener against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. Humberto Quintero, not Erik Kratz, was behind the plate for Roy Halladay's second start of the season.
The subject became a topic for discussion when Halladay, after allowing five runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Braves on Wednesday, admitted that a pitch Justin Upton hit for a two-run homer had been "half-hearted" and that he disagreed with throwing a low fastball in that situation. Also, in the past, he's been effusive in his praise for catcher Carlos Ruiz, currently serving a 25-game suspension for using a banned stimulant. Ruiz can return to the Phils' lineup on April 28.
"I don't know if [Halladay and Kratz] had issues," manager Charlie Manuel said. "It doesn't mean that he didn't shake him off. But the issue part I don't know anything about. I think there will be times when the pitcher doesn't like what the catcher's putting down, whatever, but he can always shake him off."
Manuel insisted Halladay didn't ask him to make the change, and Kratz said the two-time Cy Young Award winner who has struggled since the start of the 2012 season hadn't said anything to him. But the catcher didn't duck taking his share of the responsibility.
"Are we on the same page? I hope so," Kratz said. "We didn't do well last time, so maybe we weren't. I'm not starting, so that's that. We gave up runs. I think it's obvious. I've been out there however many games they've scored runs. And it's obvious. You've got to change something. We're not winning games right now. Got to change it up."
He didn't back off when asked if the catcher should be blamed when the pitcher gives up runs.
"I didn't say the catcher. I said me," Kratz said. "There's one thing that was consistent back there and that's me. I have to look at myself and I have to look at how we're doing back there. And if I can't help the team, we're going to put 'Q' back there, and I've got to do a better job, for sure.
"I think there's a backbone of the team. When you're not hitting, it's eight guys in the lineup, all the position players. But pitching-wise, the catcher's got to get everybody back in the zone, got to get everybody throwing strikes, got to get everybody through the times you're struggling. Anybody can get back there when a guy's dotting up. You could put a cardboard cutout back there. And right now, I'm not doing it. It could be why I'm not in there. I don't know. I don't make the lineup.
"The catcher is an extra coach who gets to play on the field. He gets the team's energy up. He gets the pitcher to throw the best pitch he can throw. And when that's not happening, you have to figure it out. That's the name of the game. You've got to figure it out. If you don't, go play another position."
Manuel said Kratz will catch Cliff Lee on Tuesday night, and dropped another hint that he isn't singling him out.
"I think [the communication has] been OK," Manuel said. "I think Kratzie is kind of new to our pitchers. At the same time, you go back and check how much he caught last year and who he caught and how good he did. Compare it. That ought to say something."
For what it's worth, Phillies pitchers with Kratz catching last season had a 3.48 ERA. Throwing to Ruiz, it was 4.15.
Manuel trying to find playing time for Galvis
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies figured they should keep 23-year-old Freddy Galvis on the big league roster for two reasons. One was his glove. The other was that they calculated that they could get him enough at-bats to help him continue to develop at the plate.
So far, though, third baseman Michael Young, shortstop Jimmy Rollins and second baseman Chase Utley have started every game. And through seven games, Galvis had just two at-bats, both as a pinch-hitter.
"Sooner or later he's got to play some," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We've played six games and our infield has been playing OK, but Freddy's got to get some playing time. I've got to find him some playing time. If we're going to keep him sharp, he's going to have to get in the lineup every now and then."
• Ruiz, serving a 25-game suspension for using a banned stimulant, and outfielder Delmon Young, rehabbing from ankle surgery, again played in the extended spring program Monday. Ruiz caught six innings, threw out two runners attempting to steal, walked twice and drove in a pair of runs. Young went hitless in five at-bats.
• Halladay's eight-game winning streak (nine starts, 8-0, 2.12 ERA) against the Mets ended Monday night. The last time he was beaten by the Mets was July 16, 2001.
• Halladay has allowed five or more earned runs in back-to-back starts for the first time since June 6 and June 12, 2007.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.