SAN FRANCISCO - The foundation is weak, so the building is unsteady.
Ryan Howard yesterday admitted that the left thigh strain he suffered March 1 when the Phillies opened spring training in Lakeland, Fla., has affected him since then, and that his hectic January schedule has contributed to how he dealt with it.
"Right now, my leg and everything like that - I can't get comfortable," Howard said. "It's tough to get it where it feels good."
Would a couple of weeks on the disabled list help?
"Maybe it would," Howard said.
Fat chance of that happening. He hit a two-run homer in the third inning last night in the Phillies' 8-5 win over the Giants. But then, he has looked decent in other stretches this season.
He has minimized the injury's impact in the past, though it has played a part in his slow start. He was benched Saturday for the second time in a week; both times, lefthanders started for the opposition.
Howard entered yesterday hitting .198. He was 5-for-38 against lefthanders with 21 strikeouts. He was 8-for-44 with 21 strikeouts since compounding the thigh injury with a sprained left knee April 18.
The knee, Howard said, improves daily. The thigh nags.
His left leg's soundness matters because Howard's stance requires him to spread his feet wide, open up with his right foot slightly toward first base and his knees deeply bent. His left leg hasn't been able to sufficiently support his 265-pound bulk. He refused to take significant time off in March because he was trying to play himself into shape.
Howard's rigorous offseason regimen screeched to a halt in January because of commitments connected to him winning the National League MVP: commercial shoots, awards banquets, business concerns.
"Because of how January was this offseason, it broke up my workouts," Howard said. "I needed spring training to get back to where I needed to be."
He didn't get back. Howard hit .221 this spring.
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"Trying to hit him was like trying to drink coffee with a fork." - Willie Stargell on Sandy Koufax