CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Ryan Howard is ready to break camp.
The big first baseman hit a pair of solo drives off Matt Garza to help the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 on Tuesday."I'm pretty anxious to get up north and get things started," Howard said.Howard and Shane Victorino connected in the fourth inning to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead. Howard went deep again in the sixth to put Philadelphia ahead 3-2.The All-Star slugger is batting .356 with three homers and eight RBIs in 16 games this spring."I put a couple of good swings on the ball today," Howard said. "That's what you work for all spring training, you just take things in stride and try to peak at the right time going into the season."Jimmy Rollins and Greg Dobbs each had two hits for the Phillies, and Brian Schneider had a game-ending sacrifice fly. Rollins is hitting .313 (15 for 48) in 16 games this spring.Evan Longoria had a two-run double for the Rays. Garza yielded three runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings.Joe Blanton pitched 5 1/3 innings for the Phillies, yielding two runs and four hits. The right-hander hasn't thrown his slider in a game yet, but expects to incorporate it during his last two exhibition starts.Blanton, who has a 3.86 ERA in four starts, has sailed along quietly this spring with all the attention new ace Roy Halladay, rebounding left-hander Cole Hamels and the race for the fifth starter's spot."That's fine with me," Blanton said. "We have a lot of great pitchers on this team and we have a lot of great hitters. We have a lot of talent and a lot of great ballplayers. I'm just fortunate to be a part of a team that has this much talent."
Philadelphia reliever J.C. Romero (recovering from left elbow surgery) threw 30 pitches in a simulated game. Romero, who likely will start the season on the disabled list, expects to throw again Friday in a similar setting. His goal is to join the team in mid-April. ... Tampa Bay SS J.J. Furmaniak injured his left heel running to first base in the first inning and was replaced by Joe Dillon. Furmaniak was a late addition to the lineup. Sean Rodriguez originally was expected to lead off and play shortstop, but he wasn't feeling well. ... Philadelphia C Carlos Ruiz was out of the lineup for the second straight day while recovering from flulike symptoms. Ruiz is expected to start Wednesday when the Phillies play the Atlanta Braves in Lake Buena Vista.