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Phillies' slumping Howard shows frustration

Associated Press • Mar 26, 2007 at 12:12 PM

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Ryan Howard is treating a spring training slump like a playoff collapse.

The reigning NL MVP clearly showed his frustration Sunday before snapping an 0-for-17 skid with a single in the fifth inning of Philadelphia's 10-2 win over Minnesota.

Howard uncharacteristically snapped at a writer before the game, didn't hide his dejection after striking out in the third inning and refused to talk to the media after the game. He's batting just .231 (12-for-52) with two homers and nine RBIs after hitting .313 with 58 homers and 149 RBIs in perhaps the best season ever for a second-year player.

Always accessible and friendly with the media, Howard turned away a reporter before the game, loudly proclaimed it was "Ryan Howard Day" and said he would resume doing interviews today. Howard broke his bat on a groundout to second in the first inning and went down swinging in the third. It was his 18th strikeout this spring, a higher pace than last season when he fanned 181 times in 581 at-bats.

His hitless drought finally ended when he hit a hard grounder up the middle off Ramon Ortiz. Howard walked his next time up and came out in the seventh.

Howard didn't appear too concerned about his slump last week, though he did say he wasn't feeling very comfortable at the plate.

"It'll click hopefully sooner than later," he said after a game against Tampa Bay last Monday.

"It's not time to panic. It'll click when it clicks. You try to battle through and do what you can." Howard seemed more at ease after Sunday's game and said he'd talk to the media before the Phillies played at the New York Yankees today.

Howard was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2005 and followed that with a spectacular season, nearly leading the Phillies to the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

He hit .355 with 30 homers and 78 RBIs in the second half as Philadelphia fell three wins short of the NL wild-card berth. "He'll be all right," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I can tell he hadn't been swinging real good. He'll be OK."

Last year, Howard hit .341 with 11 homers and 23 RBIs in spring training. He hit just five homers in April but had 13 in May.

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