Ryan Howard Injury: Matt Rizzotti Can Replace the Ailing Slugger

Jed ZaslowContributor IOctober 11, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 07:  Ryan Howard #6 of the Philadelphia Phillies is assisted off of the field after he was hurt on the last play of the game as the Phillies lost 1-0 against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game Five of the National League Divisional Series at Citizens Bank Park on October 7, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

For a while now, we knew the Phillies' slugging first baseman Ryan Howard felt soreness in his left heel. We just did not think he would tear his Achilles Heel and be sidelined for approximately six months.  

The Howard injury does not only represent the Phillies' tough elimination from the 2011 NLDS, but it also highlights a large list titled "Phillies' Offseason To-Do."  

Replacing Ryan Howard for a few months of the 2012 season, or longer, will be no easy task.  He leads the team bye far with 33 home runs and 116 RBIs.

Many suggest that GM Ruben Amaro Jr. should search the free agency for an above average batter who can play first base and more (Michael Cuddyer was the biggest name).  Investing money in a first baseman, however, will only decrease Amaro's flexibility to sign other free agents and re-sign some of their own players.  

There must be an in-house solution!

John Mayberry Jr. has developed quite a convincing case to be an everyday starter in 2012. Considering he has 18 games of experience at first base, he may well get his chance to start.

 Now, it is not a matter of whether he can handle first base or not, rather it is a matter of whether Dominic Brown is ready to step onto a Major League roster in left field, a position he has only recently started playing in.  Also, his offensive numbers in 2011 are not too inviting.  In order to keep Mayberry in left field and replace Ryan Howard the cheapest way possible, the Phillies might want to consider bringing up Matt Rizzotti.

At 25 years old, Matt Rizzotti is arguably ready for the majors.  On three different minor league affiliates in 2010, left handed first baseman Rizzotti hit .343/.430/.555 with 17 homers and 76 RBIs.  In 2011 AA Ball, Rizzotti hit .295/.392/.511 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs.

One can argue that Rizzotti could not handle AAA Ball, and that is why he was sent back to AA. Although not an ideal move to take a guy who spent his whole season in AA and give him a starting role on a Major League roster, the Phillies do not have much flexibility, and Rizzotti might perform better offensively than Dominic Brown, who had nothing to show in both the majors and the minors in 2011.  

Bringing Rizzotti to the majors would provide a cheap option to replace Howard for a number of months.  His effective offense in the minors proves that he might be ready to hit in the big leagues (at least more ready than Freddy Galvis is).  If Matt Rizzotti can find his stride and adjust quickly, he may find himself a permanent spot on a big league roster. 


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