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Old 04-06-2017, 11:48 PM   #1

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Default Braves Release Ryan Howard

Atlanta Braves sign former Philadelphia Phillies slugger Ryan Howard

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The Atlanta Braves have signed former Philadelphia Phillies slugger Ryan Howard to a minor league contract, the team announced Friday.

The Braves said Howard will report to extended spring training next week, then join Triple-A Gwinnett.

Howard, 37, spent 13 seasons with the Phillies before an emotional farewell at the end of last season. He was the last remaining member of Philadelphia's 2008 World Series-winning team, and the Phillies used a $10 million buyout on his contract this offseason.

The 2006 National League MVP indicated he wasn't planning to retire, saying during his farewell speech that "I know there's more in the tank."

With the Braves, Howard could offer insurance for first baseman Freddie Freeman or serve as a designated hitter call-up for interleague games.

If added to the 40-man roster, Howard would get a contract paying a $750,000 salary in the major leagues this year and $120,000 in the minors. He would have the chance to earn $750,000 in performance bonuses based on plate appearances: $150,000 each for 100, 175, 250, 325 and 400.

"You can't ever have enough players, because it takes a lot of guys to get through this long season," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "Just from being across the diamond and seeing him at some events in the offseason, [he] seems like a great guy and a good teammate."

Freeman, who started 158 games at first base last season, applauded the acquisition of Howard as a potential impact bat off the bench for the Braves.

"Obviously he has something left in the tank,'' Freeman told reporters at Citi Field before Thursday's game between the Braves and New York Mets. "We all saw it in the second half last year. If he can get some at-bats and prove that he can still do it, why not?''

After hitting .154 in the first half with the Phillies in 2016, Howard picked up his production after the All-Star break -- hitting .262 with a .932 OPS.

Freeman said he discussed the possibility of signing Howard with general manager John Coppolella during spring training and gave the move his full endorsement.

"If he has something left, we'll gladly take him, because we need him,'' Freeman said. "We have a lot of versatile guys on the bench. But he's a guy who can still change the game with one swing of the bat.''

Howard is a career .258 hitter with 382 home runs and 1,194 RBIs. He tied for the Phillies lead in 2016 with 25 home runs but also hit a career-worst .196.

"There was no real risk on our end," Coppolella said. "He's a great makeup guy. He's good with young kids. If it works, it's great. If it doesn't, it's not a big league contract."
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Old 05-09-2017, 12:28 AM   #2

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Atlanta Braves terminate Ryan Howard's minor league contract

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ATLANTA -- Ryan Howard doesn't want to retire from baseball.

He may not have a choice.

The former National League MVP was released from his minor league contract Monday by the Atlanta Braves after he struggled at Triple-A Gwinnett, a major blow to the 37-year-old slugger's hopes of carrying on with another team after a long career with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Less than a week after Howard insisted "there's more in the tank," the Braves decided otherwise. He lasted only 11 games with the G-Braves, hitting .184 with one homer and five RBIs.

The Braves were hoping Howard could bolster an anemic bench and serve as designated hitter in interleague games. But his options were limited, since he could only play first base and Atlanta already has Freddie Freeman.

Howard was once among baseball's most feared hitters. In 2006, his first full season as Philadelphia's starting first baseman, he put together one of the greatest stat lines in baseball history: 58 homers, 149 RBIs, a .313 average and an MVP award.

The Phillies would go on to win five straight NL East titles, a stretch that included two trips to the World Series and a championship in 2008. Howard averaged 41 homers and 129 RBIs during that run, finishing in the top 10 of the MVP voting every season.

But his career was forever altered on the last play of the 2011 division series against the St. Louis Cardinals, when he tore his Achilles tendon running out a grounder for the final out of a 1-0 loss.

He hasn't been the same since.

Plagued by one injury after another, Howard's production plummeted the last five seasons. In 2016, he showed flashes of power with 25 homers but batted a career-worst .196, prompting the Phillies to decline a $25 million option for this season. He was honored by the team before its final home game but insisted that he had no plans to retire.

Howard made it clear last week that he still believes he can contribute.

"If you walk away, don't walk away with something still left in the tank," he said. "Then you're wondering like, `Man, what could I have done?' When I'm done playing, I want to leave it all out on the field."

Howard was even willing to go to the minors, taking a fraction of the salary he once made and with no guarantees that the Braves would bring him up to the majors.

"Once you leave the minor leagues, you want to not come back," Howard said. "But it's the path that I'm on, the journey that I'm on."

That journey may have ended, especially since he missed all of spring training before the Braves finally called. There's clearly not a lot of interest in an aging slugger with a cumulative .226 average over the past five years.
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