Thursday February 19th, 2015

Philadelphia Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg says that Ryan Howard will be the team’s starting first baseman this season unless he gets unseated.

Howard, 35, hit .223 with 23 home runs and 95 RBIs in 153 games last season, leading the majors with 190 strikeouts and setting career-lows in slugging and OPS.

Howard is due to be paid $25 million the next two seasons, with a $23 million club option for 2017. He also has a $10 million buyout in 2017, so Philadelphia is on the hook for at least $60 million in salary for Howard.

Sandberg said that if Howard can get back to hitting 30-35 home runs, he can help the team win games.

“I’m anxious to see him and see where he’s at and to see if he can be a guy who can raise his game and help us win. I’m confident in Ryan in bouncing back and having that type of year.” Sandberg said, according to

CORCORAN: Spring training preview: National League East

Howard has been the subject of trade rumors, with Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. telling Howard that “it would probably bode better for the organization not with him but without him."

As stated in his five-year, $125 million contract, Howard can block trades to 20 teams, leaving only nine teams he could possibly be dealt to.

Howard, a five-time All-Star and the 2006 NL MVP, is a career .265 hitter with 334 home runs and 1,058 RBIs and has struck out 1,591 times in 10 MLB seasons.

- Scooby Axson

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.