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News » Philadelphia Phillies Inside Pitch 2008-12-30

Philadelphia Phillies Inside Pitch 2008-12-30

Philadelphia Phillies Inside Pitch 2008-12-30
Ryan Howard is putting the Phillies before his country.

Howard, the Phillies' slugging first baseman, has declined an invitation to play for the United States in the World Baseball Classic because he'd rather maximize his at-bats in spring training. Howard is a notoriously slow starter in April and May, and he'd prefer to make sure he's ready to help the Phillies defend their World Series championship.

"He feels like he needs to spend his time in the spring getting ready for the season so he gets off to a better start," Team USA manager Davey Johnson told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "We'll miss him. We would have liked to have had his bat in the middle of our order."

Johnson said Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins will play for the U.S. and split time with New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. But Phillies ace left-hander Cole Hamels and closer Brad Lidge also bypassed a chance to pitch for Team USA.

Several other Phillies players are expected to play for their countries in the World Baseball Classic, which will be held in March. Reliever J.C. Romero already has committed to pitch for Puerto Rico, catcher Carlos Ruiz likely will play for Panama and reserve outfielder Matt Stairs probably will play for Canada.

Howard batted .251 with 48 home runs and 146 RBIs in 2008 and finished second in the NL MVP voting behind St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols. But Howard was batting a season-low .164 on May 7, and he was batting only .206 entering June.

"I told Ryan that this means Jimmy will have to carry a bigger load," Johnson joked.

Other early commitments to Team USA include Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones and catcher Brian McCann, Los Angeles Angels pitcher John Lackey, Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia and Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun. The 28-man U.S. roster will train at the Phillies' spring training complex in Clearwater, Fla., beginning March 2.

Preliminary 45-man rosters will be announced Jan. 19, with the final rosters being announced Feb. 24.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: December 30, 2008

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