CLEARWATER, Fla. — This year already is going a lot better for Ryan Howard than 2012 did.
Howard hit his first home run of spring training, an opposite-field drive to left off All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel that helped the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves 10-5 on Thursday.
Howard put the Phillies ahead with an RBI double in the first against loser Paul Maholm.
He didn’t play until July last year while recovering from a torn left Achilles tendon sustained in the Phillies’ final game of the 2011 playoffs. Howard has started all six of Philadelphia’s exhibition games this year and is 8 for 15 (.533) with three doubles and a homer.
“He was totally relaxed and stayed on the ball, went with it,” Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said of the home run. “The ball was out away from him and he just stayed on it, went with it.”
Every position player in the Phillies’ starting lineup had a hit except for Jimmy Rollins. Howard, Chase Utley, Ben Revere and Darin Ruf all went 2 for 3, and John Mayberry Jr. homered against Cristhian Martinez in the sixth.
Atlanta’s Chris Johnson hit a homer in the sixth off Jonathan Pettibone, who gave up a three-run drive to Tyler Pastornicky in the seventh.
YANKEES: Closer Mariano Rivera, 43, was all smiles after throwing 18 pitches Thursday in his first simulated game since knee surgery last spring.
“I feel good,” Rivera said. “I feel real good. Getting stronger and stronger.”
Rivera pitched in nine games last year, his season ending when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while tracking down a fly ball during batting practice in Kansas City on May 3. He had surgery on June 12.
RANGERS: Lance Berkman singled, walked and scored two runs in his spring training debut, a 10-0 win over the Cleveland Indians on Thursday that gave Texas its first exhibition victory this year after an 0-5 start.
• Shortstop Elvis Andrus was scratched from the lineup because of what the club called “sensitivity in his left arm” – apparently caused by a tattoo.
Andrus spent nine hours the two days before the game under a needle. He wanted a likeness of his late father, Emilo Andrus, who died in 1996 when Elvis was 7.
Andrus told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram he’ll be ready to play today.
ROYALS: James Shields’ spring training debut went by so quickly, he wound up in the bullpen to increase his pitch count.
Shields threw nine of 13 pitches for strikes in the first inning on Thursday’s 5-4 win over the San Diego Padres.
He relied on fastballs and changeups, with his velocity topping out at 94 mph.
METS: Reliever Pedro Feliciano has been cleared to resume activity while wearing a heart monitor.
Feliciano visited a heart clinic in Minneapolis this week for tests. The exam showed he had a rare genetic condition.
CARDINALS: Pitcher Jake Westbrook left Thursday’s game against Miami with a bruised left knee and outfielder Carlos Beltran left with a bruised right toe.
Westbrook was hit on the leg by a grounder hit by Casey Kotchman leading off the second inning Thursday.
Beltran was hit by a pitch in the first and left the game after the inning. X-rays were negative.
GIANTS: Outfielder Andres Torres won’t play for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic and will be sidelined for at least a week because of a strained oblique.