PHILDELPHIA — From the beginning, the Phillies knew this was a possibility. They were just hoping it wouldn't come to this.
For now, it's just a 15-day disabled list stint for first baseman Ryan Howard, who has inflammation in his left knee. Being out longer or the need for surgery haven't been ruled out yet.
"We can't think about the short term," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told reporters Saturday. "Have to think of long term with Ryan's health. I think we will play it pretty conservatively. If he needs surgery — and we hope he doesn't — if he does, we will take care of it and if he doesn't, we will try to rehab him and get him back."
Howard will have an MRI on Monday, at which point the club will make a decision about how they will proceed with their first baseman's treatment.
News of Howard's knee soreness surfaced when he missed back-to-back games May 19-20. He admitted back then that it had been acting up since spring training, but he had "been able to tough my way through it."
Amaro told writers Saturday that Howard's knee discomfort first showed up on the medical report around May 4 or 5, but he'd been managing OK with the help of sporadic days off.
The last straw came before Saturday's game. Howard was in the lineup until he tried to take batting practice and field ground balls.
"It was just super stiff," Howard said Sunday. "Even at that moment [of his 439-foot home run Friday], it was still hurting. Over the course of the last three or four days, it had been really tough. The pain had been a little bit more. Once I went out to take ground balls [Saturday], it was like that I couldn't move or go laterally. Trying to run and get out of the box, I wasn't going to be able to have anything. So instead of trying to push it, I let them know and see what they wanted to do and then see what happens."
Howard has missed more time than he'd envisioned because of his knee discomfort, and manager Charlie Manuel has timed most of those days off to coincide with the opposition starting a left-handed pitcher. But that doesn't mean Howard wasn't in pain on some of the days he was playing.
"There were good days and bad days and better days," Howard said.
"It's somewhat of a relief [to have the MRI]. It's, I guess, bittersweet. I don't know if that's the right term for it or not. Just to finally be able to try to see what's going on and see how we want to approach it and go from there."
Howard is hitting .266 with 11 home runs and 43 RBIs in 80 games.
Darin Ruf was called up Saturday to take Howard's place on the 25-man roster and started Sunday's game at first base. Manuel said after the game he expects Ruf to get a lot of playing time, particularly at first base, despite the fact that Ruf has spent much of the last 12 months playing left field.
It's what Amaro wants, too.
"It is up to Charlie," Amaro said. "I would like to see him play. We think he can be a nice addition to our club."
Here a lineup, there a lineup
A new day, another new lineup.
Through 89 games this season, Manuel has used 67 lineups involving the eight position players. And don't be surprised if you see a few more before the month, or even the homestand, is over.
"I'm trying to figure out our best lineup," Manuel said.
Manuel could opt to slide Ruf up — he hit seventh Sunday — which would account for yet another change. If Manuel decides to insert John Mayberry Jr. in there, there's a chance that number could climb again.
According to Lehigh Valley IronPigs GM Kurt Landes' Twitter account, Erik Kratz will begin a rehab assignment Monday with the club's Triple-A affiliate. LHP Jeremy Horst will continue his rehab assignment with Lehigh Valley as well. … The Phillies are 43-42 against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. It was the Phillies' 600th home win all-time against the Braves.