MIAMI -- Ryan Howard, who is recovering from left knee surgery, has seen some action in simulated games in Clearwater, Fla., and the Florida instructional league games will begin on Tuesday.
Ryne Sandberg is expecting good things from Howard next season. He just wants him to be healthy and ready to play first.
"Maybe, in some ways, he'll be disappointed in this season," Sandberg said. "It all adds up to a year where he'll be ready to go. It'll all start right now with the games in Florida along with his workout program the whole winter. Him being healthy will allow him to get into baseball shape. I look for him to come back and be a big guy right in the middle of the lineup. … I know I'll have a conversation with him about continuing to have a good work ethic and get the training in he needs to this winter."
Howard has not been healthy each of the past two seasons, so being healthy is the first step. But even when he has been healthy, Howard's production has taken a dip. Sandberg will stress pregame preparation with the veteran, as he does with other players.
"From what I've gathered, I think … he can be better prepared to face somebody to start a baseball game," he said. "Whether it's through the hitting coaches, having conversations, going over scouting reports, we have plenty of video, whatever it might be, I think he can utilize that."
Sandberg stresses pregame prep, skill work
MIAMI -- Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg has created a structured environment that stresses pregame preparation.
That will continue next year.
"I like to have the players prepare to play a game," he said Monday at Marlins Park. "It all starts in Spring Training for me, and I think the tone is set in Spring Training, whether it's drills or defensive sessions or outfield sessions. I think the work needs to be done, and I think it needs to be quality and game-speed. It's actually work and not going through the motions. I think we can work on things more."
Sandberg has talked plenty in the past few weeks about players being in shape and being better prepared. He did not say that he has seen players out of shape, but he did say they can work more.
"Actually working on plays you're actually going to see and having that be a standard in Spring Training and maintaining it throughout the season, I think that's very important," he said. "And then you stay and get into shape."
Sandberg is talking about baserunning sessions, working on going from first to third, cutting the corners and getting good leads. He is talking about pitchers honing their moves to first base and holding runners.
He is not talking about grueling workouts every day during the summer, but 10-20 minute sessions, maybe one day during a homestand.
"This year, we had a 20-minute window for defense, which was plenty of time for that," he said. "Usually, we used up about half of that. To have that set up, where things are getting worked on and we're maintaining what we do in the spring, I think that's very easy to apply."
But will the modern ballplayer go for it?
"I'm not worried about that," Sandberg said. "I think it's all for the players' benefit to get better, and I think ultimately that's what you see. When wins come with that, it works hand in hand. That's what's preached. It's a team strategy, and this is how we're going to do it. Like I say, you can have a nice session in 12-15 minutes and then they go stretch. It's not a big time thing.
"And I think, I've noticed this year, they come out and they have fun with it. I hear them talking. Whether it's with the infield, the pitchers… I think they like it. I'm just trying to help them get better, help the team get better. I think it's hand-in-hand."
• Sandberg and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. have remained mum on when they might finalize decisions about who from the current coaching staff they'll invite back in 2014. It seems safe to say that there will be changes, but how many remains to be seen.
"We'll have discussions throughout this road trip," Sandberg said. "There's not really a timetable for when those decisions will be made."
• The Phillies placed right-hander Kyle Kendrick on the 15-day disabled list because of a right shoulder issue. Amaro said they made the move because they have to remove left-hander Antonio Bastardo from the restricted list the final day of the season, and they need a spot for him on the 40-man roster. That means the Phillies could put Kendrick on the 60-day DL. Amaro also said Bastardo, who is serving a 50-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy, had a left knee issue that earlier required a PRP injection, but he will pitch in winter ball.
• Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is working out in Clearwater, Fla., but is not expected to see action in the Florida instructional league.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.