CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) -Ryan Howard's smile was genuine and his words were sincere. The slugger really has no worries about his contract situation.
Howard and the Philadelphia Phillies are $3 million apart regarding his salary for this season. The 2006 NL MVP asked for $10 million, while the team countered with an offer for $7 million. If the two sides don't reach an agreement by Wednesday, an arbitrator will decide for them.
Some players might hold a grudge or possibly express their displeasure by waiting until the last moment to arrive for spring training. Not Howard. He showed up with pitchers and catchers, five days earlier than position players are due.
``I'm just a happy guy I guess,'' Howard said. ``I'm just trying to be the best player I can, trying to get better in every facet.''
management.
``It's fun to be down here. I'm anxious to go,'' Howard said. ``We made some good moves this offseason. I'm excited.
``I'm not distracted by anything. I'm not thinking about anything other than trying to get my game right. I've always been laid-back about that stuff. As long as it's between the white lines, that's all I can handle.''
The Phillies have been criticized by fans and some media for not giving Howard a long-term deal. But the 28-year-old first baseman can't become a free agent until after the 2011 season, so there's no reason they should commit more than $100 million now.
The team's offer of $7 million ties the most for a player in his first year of arbitration eligibility. If Howard gets the $10 million, it would be the highest figure awarded a player who won his case. Alfonso Soriano sought $12 million from the Washington Nationals in 2006 and got $10 million after losing his case.
General manager Pat Gillick wouldn't comment about the specifics, but was pleased to see Howard already here.
``He's in a very positive frame of mind,'' Gillick said. ``If he wasn't here, it'd be some concern. But he showed up early, he's working hard and he wants to get going.''
ar player.
But winning the MVP award took a toll on Howard. He spent much of his offseason on the banquet circuit and that affected his workout program. As a result, Howard started slow and was nagged by leg injuries for much of the first two months.
Still, Howard put up big numbers and helped the Phillies win the National League East title for the first time since 1993. He also set the major league record for strikeouts in a season with 199.
This spring, Howard looks leaner - he said he lost 10-15 pounds - after working out regularly in the offseason.
``I'm definitely feeling a lot better than last spring,'' Howard said. ``I worked out a lot more and got into my routine. Last year, I came in behind schedule as far as where I wanted to be and how I wanted to feel.''
Howard wants to improve his defense, particularly his throws to second base. He clearly needs to cut down his strikeouts, too. The big man also joked that he'd like to increase his stolen bases. First, he'll have to persuade manager Charlie Manuel to let him run.
``Charlie said the only green light I have is 3-0,'' said Howard, who has one career steal. ``We have to work something out.''
Manuel wisely won't change his stance.
``He may steal two or three bases on the back end of a double steal,'' Manuel said.
As for the arbitration case, Manuel has been around Howard long enough to know it won't be an issue.
``It's not going to affect him,'' Manuel said. ``He comes to the ballpark ready to play. He stays focused. He's all business.''
There's still a chance the Phillies and Howard's agent, Casey Close, can reach an agreement before next week's hearing and avoid a possibly messy situation.
``I don't know what's going to happen,'' Howard said.
Good chance whatever the outcome is won't be that big a deal for Howard.

Recent MLB Discussions

MLB Trends Tuesday, May 24 on Tue, May 2016 by Blade
MLB Trends Monday, May 23 on Mon, May 2016 by Blade
MLB Trends Sunday, May 22 on Sun, May 2016 by Blade

Top MLB Public Bets

MLB Top Stories

Thumbnail Indians vs. White Sox Prediction The first-place White Sox are struggling but will they pick up a win tonight when they host the Indians at 8:10PM ET?
Thumbnail Orioles vs. Astros Free Pick Are the Orioles a safe bet to beat the Astros tonight when the two teams clash at 8:10PM ET?
Thumbnail Rockies vs. Red Sox Prediction Will David Price lead the Red Sox to their third consecutive victory when the team hosts the Rockies at 7:10PM ET?
Thumbnail Mets vs. Nationals Free Pick Will the Nationals end the Mets’ four-game winning streak when the rivals clash tonight at 7:05PM ET?
Thumbnail Angels vs. Rangers Total Pick Will the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels have a big scoring output in tonight’s MLB contest?
More inMLB Articles  

MLB Team Pages