Ryan Howard returned to the Phillies' starting lineup Monday night, a day after his sore left knee required him to rest for the third time in eight days Sunday. Howard has some cartilage abnormalities in the knee. A cortisone injection administered last week briefly alleviated the pain Howard has been feeling in the knee. It has become a problem that must be managed. “Right now, I’m looking at it as day-to-day and trying to run with the good days,” Howard said Monday. “If it’s bothering me on a particular day, I have to be honest and let them know I can’t go. If the pain gets too much, I will let them know.” Howard said he was feeling some soreness before batting practice Monday, but was OK to play. “To me, you want to be out there, you want to play,” he said. “You play hurt to the best of your ability. That’s part of the competitive nature. But it’s about being smart, too.” Howard uses his left leg to generate power in his swings. A painful left knee is not ideal. He also has had trouble with the ankle and Achilles (rupture) on the left leg in his career. Howard struck out four times Saturday night, and entered Monday’s game hitting .254 with six homers and 25 RBIs. Twenty-eight percent of his at-bats have ended in strikeouts this season. He was hitting just .216 with three homers and nine RBIs in May. Howard was asked if the injury was affecting him at the plate. “I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t been one to make excuses. When I was going out there when my ankle was bad, I still felt like I could go out there and contribute to the best of my ability. I try not to make excuses.” Howard acknowledged that surgery might be the best way to fix his problem, but he said that has not been discussed with team officials. “You never overlook that," he said, "but that would be the worst-case scenario if all else fails." Manager Charlie Manuel considered using Howard as the designated hitter Monday night, but Howard said he felt good enough to play the field. Delmon Young was the DH and John Mayberry Jr. started in right field. Manuel said he would continue to monitor Howard and get him time off as needed. “His leg is going to always be bothering him,” Manuel said. “He has some arthritis. It comes and goes in his legs. He's going to always be bothered by that. On the days when it really hurts him bad, those are the days where I have to communicate [with] him. He has to tell me.”