HOWARD HEADED TO THE ROCK­IES’ FARM SYS­TEM

The Denver Post - - SPORTS -

The Rock­ies signed vet­eran first base­man and for­mer Na­tional League MVP Ryan Howard to a mi­nor-league con­tract Sat­ur­day and will as­sign him to Triple-a Al­bu­querque.

Ryan, 37, was a huge star for the Philadel­phia Phillies but is well past his prime and hasn’t played in the ma­jors this sea­son. He pro­vides some or­ga­ni­za­tional depth and could be called up in Septem­ber and used as a pinch hit­ter. He would be el­i­gi­ble for the play­offs if he is with the Rock­ies and they qual­ify for a post­sea­son berth.

Howard, who bats left-handed, signed a mi­nor-league deal with At­lanta in April, but the Braves re­leased him in May. He played in just 11 games for the Braves’ Triple-a af­fil­i­ate, hit­ting .184.

Be­cause the Rock­ies signed Howard be­fore the end of Au­gust, he would be el­i­gi­ble for the post­sea­son ros­ter, but he will have to show the Rock­ies that he can still hit for power to have any shot. He isn’t on their 40-man ros­ter, so the Rock­ies would have to clear a spot on the ros­ter if they want to call him up in Septem­ber.

Howard was the Na­tional League rookie of the year in 2005, and he was the MVP in 2006, when he hit 58 home runs. He helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Se­ries. Be­fore the 2010 sea­son, Philadel­phia signed Howard to a five-year, $125 mil­lion con­tract ex­ten­sion that started in 2012.

Howard be­came a free agent last Novem­ber when the Phillies de­clined his 2017 club op­tion for $23 mil­lion and bought out his con­tract for $10 mil­lion.

Black out. Bud Black wasn’t feel­ing well, so he didn’t man­age Sat­ur­day night’s game against Mi­ami. The Rock­ies de­scribed Black as “be­ing un­der the weather.”

Bench coach Mike Red­mond took Black’s place. Red­mond last man­aged a big-league game May 17, 2015, for Mi­ami at Mar­lins Park. He was fired later that day af­ter los­ing to At­lanta.

Mark Wi­ley, the Rock­ies’ di­rec- tor of pitch­ing op­er­a­tions, was on the bench to as­sist Red­mond.

Free­land up­date. Rookie left­hander Kyle Free­land, on the 10-day dis­abled list while he re­cov­ers from a strained groin, threw a 35-pitch bullpen ses­sion Sat­ur­day. He is mak­ing progress to­ward re­turn­ing to the ro­ta­tion.

“I felt re­ally good, no pain, full range of mo­tion,” Free­land said. “I did a few PFPS (pitcher field­ing prac­tice) around the mound and I felt nor­mal.”

Free­land was forced to leave his start in the top of the first in­ning dur­ing an Aug. 4 game against the Phillies. He is 11-7 with a 3.70 ERA. His 11 vic­to­ries are still the most among ma­jor­league rook­ies this sea­son.

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