WASHINGTON -- Ryan Howard won't deny it. He's in a bit of a funk at the plate.
The Phillies' first baseman was given the day off -- what the slugger called "a mental day" -- in Thursday's series finale against the Nationals.
The former National League MVP had just one hit and nine strikeouts in his last 14 at-bats entering Thursday, and was hitting just .206 with four homers and nine RBIs in 19 games since returning from rehabbing from the Achilles injury that kept him out the first few months of the season.
"As far as my swing is concerned, going through the process and going through rehab, I felt good. Right now, it's just, I'm in a funk," Howard said before Thursday's series finale against the Nationals. "And there ain't no point in trying to hide it. In a funk. Right now, I'm not seeing the ball, I'm not comfortable."
Howard admitted he's a little frustrated and agreed that Thursday was probably a good time for manager Charlie Manuel to give him the day off.
"I've been just trying to find it, searching, and I've just been off," Howard said. "I've had times where I may not have had the results I was looking for, but I felt good. Felt good in the at-bats, or felt good here or there. Right now, it's just off. Off more than I would want it to be."
Howard and Manuel talked through much of Wednesday's 3-2 win, during which Howard went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a walk.
Manuel said Howard is "kind of still in Spring Training mode" and "kind of out of whack at the plate right now." Manuel added that Howard will "get right" and be "OK."
"You can tell he's getting a little down 'cause he's not hitting better," the skipper said. "He's kinda upset cause he's striking out."
Howard hopes a mental day to "just relax and kind of let things calm down" will help him when the Phillies open a nine-game homestand on Friday.
"You go through funks and this and that," he said. "I don't blame it on rehab. I know everyone always talks about this and that. To me, maybe I'm just stubborn in this sense, but I had the feel I wanted to feel. Right now, I'm not feeling it. I'm not trying to put excuses on not having Spring Training and just coming off the rehab. I want to be able to go out here and compete. Sometimes I might press a little bit to get things done. Right now, it's having to calm down and have the game come back to me, instead of trying to make things happen."
Report: Phillies place lefty Lee on waivers
WASHINGTON -- The Phillies have placed Cliff Lee on waivers, according to a tweet from Yahoo! Sports' columnist Jeff Passan. Lee is expected to clear waivers on Friday, making him eligible for a trade, according to the report.
This is standard procedure after the non-waiver Trade Deadline passes, and not totally unexpected. It's unlikely that Lee (2-6, 3.73 ERA) will be claimed because he's owed $25 million in each of the 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons, with a $27.5 million option in 2016 that vests if he throws 200 innings in 2015, or 400 innings in 2014 and 2015 combined.
Even if Lee is claimed, the Phillies have the option of pulling him back. If he clears waivers, it gives the Phillies the option to trade him. There were reports circulating in the days leading to Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline that the former Cy Young Award winner was on the trading block, but Lee said after his start on Tuesday that general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told him those were just rumors.
"Ruben did tell me that some teams proposed some stuff to him, but nothing that ever made even close to sense for the Phillies," Lee said then.
Polanco's absence shows up in fielding stats
WASHINGTON -- When Placido Polanco has missed time in 2012, the Phillies have felt the effects at the hot corner. In 70 starts at third base, Polanco, currently on the 15-day disabled list with lower back inflammation, has made just two errors in 196 chances. The rest of the third basemen have combined for 11 errors in 84 chances.
Ty Wigginton has committed eight in just 21 starts at third base. Mike Fontenot, who was designated for assignment on Wednesday, made two in 25 chances, and Kevin Frandsen committed his first on Wednesday.
"Mistakes are going to happen. But you can't just keep making them," manager Charlie Manuel said before Thursday's series finale against Washington. "You make too many of them -- we need to correct them. ... Polanco is a very sure fielder. He's got tremendous accuracy on his throwing arm. He is a very good fielding third baseman."
Polanco went on the DL retroactive to July 23, so he is not yet eligible for activation. Manuel said he expects the veteran third baseman back at some point, but it's unknown when.
All-Star catcher Carlos Ruiz was back in the lineup on Thursday. Ruiz was held out on Wednesday, as he is battling plantar fasciitis in his left foot. It's something Ruiz could have to play through the rest of the season.
"He's feeling good enough to play today," manager Charlie Manuel said. "Some days are better than others.
Michael Martinez started in center field on Thursday for the first time this season. Martinez, who was promoted from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Wednesday, normally sees action as an infielder but played in 10 games at center field last season. He also played some center field for Lehigh Valley this season.
He said before Thursday's game that he feels comfortable in center field and was excited to be in the lineup.
Reliever Raul Valdes could be close to returning to the Phillies. The left-hander has started throwing on flat ground, according to manager Charlie Manuel. Valdes (2-2, 3.08 ERA) was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right hip strain on July 13.
Tommy Joseph, the key piece the Phillies received from the Giants in the Hunter Pence trade, made his organization debut on Wednesday night with Double-A Reading. The catching prospect went 3-for-5 with an RBI.
Right-hander Ethan Martin, part of the return from the Shane Victorino deal with the Dodgers, will make his organization debut on Friday night, when he starts for Reading.
Outfielder Nate Schierholtz became the first player to homer in his Phillies debut since former Philadelphia catcher Dane Sardinha on June 24, 2010. Schierholtz was acquired in the Pence trade.
Jake Kaplan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.