Howard Is Ready To Go

Although position players aren't expected to report to camp for a few more days, Ryan Howard reported to Spring Training early, looking trimmer. Howard, who lost 20 pounds over the offseason, spoke about his 3 year, $54 million contract and the upcoming season.

Howard won a record $10 million in arbitration last year. Despite a slow start, 199 strikeouts and .251 AVG, Howard managed to lead the majors in home runs (48) and RBI (146). Howard will make $15 million in 2009, $19 million in 2010, and $20 million in 2011.

"Both sides were happy with it," Howard said. "I thought we were able to get a deal where both sides felt good about

"I think the biggest thing was trying to get something done as far
as ... not having to go to arbitration. The talks were actually very good. Back
and forth, pretty quick."

"The longer the better obviously, but I'm
happy with what we have. I'll ride these three years and see what happens after
that." Howard

Winning the 2005 Rookie of the Year, 2006 MVP, and 2008 World Series isn't enough to satisfy Howard. He wants more. To show that, Howard reported to camp early, started working out early, and shed some weight.

"I wanted to get to a playing weight and feel good, feel light, feel fast [and]
strong and go from there," Howard said. "I definitely feel better. Endurance is
better. Everything - my whole body - just feels a lot better."

The best sign is Howard is working on his defense. Howard committed 45 errors over the last 3 seasons, leading the major leagues.

"I'm trying to work on every facet of my game -- offensively, defensively,
speed, strength," Howard said. "As far as my defense, I know a lot of people
have a concern about it, [but] I've been down here and I've been working on it.
Working with Sam [Perlozzo], he's taught me a couple things that have clicked a
little bit. I feel very confident with the way I've been working with Sam that
my defense will be better."

Although 2008 was a fun ride, Howard knows he has to put it behind, and focus on trying to repeat in 2009.

"I think the biggest thing right now is starting with Spring Training and
getting refocused. Once we get everyone on that same page -- refocused,
forgetting about 2008 ... because 2008 can't do anything for us in 2009 -- I
think we'll be fine. I think we'll be able to make that run."

Howard also spoke about the whole steroid situation and insisted that he was clean.

"It's a tough situation but [Alex Rodriguez] did the right thing coming out
and admitting it," Howard said. "Now we just need to get it all out in the
open, get it over with and move on."

"For me, I know I don't do that stuff. That's just me. I don't do it, won't do it, I have nothing to worry about."


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