If you’re ignoring family members at a get-together and looking up Ryan Howard stats on your phone, you might come across his MLB.com profile page, on which an unfamiliar man will be smiling back at you. You recognize that grin, certainly; the one that launched a thousand dingers - I guess the bat helped, too - but the uniform they’ve put him in is that of the Rockies, a team he may never actually play for, instead of the Phillies’, the uniform he’ll return to one day and ascend to the top of the Comcast Tower to live out his days tending a botanical garden with Chase and Jimmy.
That day has not yet come, as the people of Albuquerque, New Mexico found out yesterday.
Playing for the Rockies’ AAA team, the Isotopes, Howard took Reno Aces pitcher Jared Miller deep for the game-winner in a 4-4 tie. Miller, a sinking fastball specialist whose offerings quite often become hand-seeking missiles, has three saves and a 2.97 ERA on the season. When asked for weaknesses in Miller’s game, Bernie Pleskoff could only shrug, suggest “more confidence in his curveball,” and then say “I don’t think there’s any question Miller’s star is rising. If he’s given the opportunity, he can become a very important and credible left-handed reliever for the D-backs.”
That star ceased rising and headed straight back into the dugout after Howard got a hold of his most recent pitch. Howard, as we know, left the Phillies and got a deal with Atlanta; a deal that, when announced, led to much nail-chewing over just how hideous he’d look in a Braves uniform. It was just as bad as we thought. Braves GM John Coppolella said Howard was in great shape, had an “excellent” second half of his last season with the Phillies, and that the deal was a “no-risk” proposition. Which is probably the statement Howard’s agent taped to his client’s jersey for the GM of whichever team signed him to read to the press.
But Howard hit just the one home run for AAA Gwinnett, and the Braves sent him away in May. It wasn’t until earlier this month on August 12 that the Rockies brought him a minor league deal and sequestered him in beautiful Albuquerque, where he has been waiting patiently for young pitchers to make mistakes in order to exact 400-foot punishment.
Howard may look strange out of red pinstripes, but he stays no stranger to the long ball. Or chasing the post-season in the homestretch.
The Isotopes lost game two of their doubleheader yesterday on a go-ahead throwing error and were eliminated from playoff contention. Minor league baseball!