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Slimmed Howard gets 2 hits with old stance, breaks silence as Phillies tie Yanks 5-5 in opener

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CLEARWATER, Florida — Newly trim, Ryan Howard singled in his first two at-bats of spring training and then broke his silence.

He had not spoken with media since arriving for his 15th season with the Philadelphia Phillies. Following the offseason trade of Jimmy Rollins and talk of possible deals involving Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon, Howard knows there are questions about what his future as a 35-year-old on a rebuilding team.

So he made clear questions had to be about Philadelphia's spring training opener.

"It deviates from the game, it's over," he said during Tuesday's 5-5 tie against the New York Yankees.

Trying to regain the form that made him one of the top hitters before he tore his left Achilles tendon injury during the 2011 playoffs, the former NL MVP had an opposite-field single to left in the second inning and lined a single to right in the fourth.

He is standing up straighter at the plate and dropping his hands, and idea he discussed last year with Marlon Byrd, then a Phillies teammate.

"Looked at some old video and stuff," Howard said. "Back in '06, I was way down and then it looked like I was steadily creeping up over the years."

Howard lost 15-20 pounds since November, when he started on a diet to eliminate sugars. His listed weight had been 250.

"You have a cheat day or whatever every once in a while," he said, "but for the most part, just trying to stick with it."

Howard topped 40 homers and 130 RBIs each year from 2006-09, then had consecutive 30-100 seasons before the foot injury and left knee surgery cost him the first half of 2012 and the second half of 2013. He hit .223 with 23 homers and 95 RBIs last year, when led the majors with 190 strikeouts and had a career low .380 slugging percentage.

"To have some early success goes a long way," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "I see some better bat speed this early in the spring than I did last year this early."

Philadelphia is coming off consecutive 73-89 seasons and needs Howard to rebound if the Phillies are to regain the form that won five straight NL East titles from 2007-11 and a World Series championship in 2008.

"We didn't put teams away when we had the opportunity," he said of last year. "So if we can put teams away when we have the opportunity, I think we'll shock a lot of people."

PHOTO: The Philadelphia Phillies mascot Phanatic stands at home plate during the national anthem before a spring training baseball exhibition game against the New York Yankees, Tuesday, March 3, 2015, in Clearwater, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
The Philadelphia Phillies mascot Phanatic stands at home plate during the national anthem before a spring training baseball exhibition game against the New York Yankees, Tuesday, March 3, 2015, in Clearwater, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

UP NEXT

Phillies: RHP Kevin Slowey, in camp with a minor league contract, is to start for the Phillies against the Yankees on Wednesday in Tampa. Slowey hasn't pitched in the major leagues since he was released by the Miami Marlins last June.

Yankees: RHP Nathan Eovaldi is to make his first appearance for the Yankees, who obtained him from the Marlins in December.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Yankees: Minor league C Luis Torrens has a torn labrum in his right shoulder and will miss the season. Dr. David Altchek is to operate Wednesday.

Phillies: RHP Aaron Harang was scheduled to start Wednesday but his name was missing when the pitching schedule was posted in the Phillies clubhouse. Harang said he was dealing with "maintenance" issues. Harang said he saw a chiropractor and that is normal for him in spring training. He expects to pitch Monday.

STARTING TIME

Yankees: RHP Adam Warren allowed one hit in two innings. He thought he would feel constrained by the new clock timing 2 minutes, 25 seconds for breaks between half innings. The final warmup pitch must be thrown with 30 seconds left, and Warren was ready with 20 seconds to spare. "Pretty good," he said. "I couldn't believe it. How am I going to get eight pitches in a minute, 50 seconds."

Phillies: RHP David Buchanan gave up one run and five hits in two innings.

JUDGE-MENT DAY

Aaron Judge, a 2013 first-round draft pick, hit a tying, three-run homer on a 3-2 pitch with two outs in a four-run ninth off Phillies reliever Mario Hollands.

The 6-foot-7 outfielder, the 32nd overall pick, at first thought the ball had been caught by left fielder Aaron Altheer, who tried for a leaping grab.

"I felt pretty good," Judge said.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was impressed by Judge's size.

"It's just not tall. There's a lot of strength there, as well," Girardi said.

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Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jerome Williams throws between innings as a clock runs in the outfield during a spring training baseball exhibition game, Tuesday, March 3, 2015, in Clearwater, Fla. Digital clocks, though some officials prefer to call them timers, have been installed in ballparks throughout the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues to keep the action moving. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Click to view (7 Photos)

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