Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. emphatically shot down reports that the organization is considering releasing struggling slugger Ryan Howard after the season. “That is not something we are contemplating,” Amaro said Friday morning. “I don’t know where that’s coming from. “Our goal is to try to get Ryan Howard straightened out so he can be a more productive player for us. As I’ve said in the past, I don’t expect him to be the Ryan Howard of 2006, 2007, 2008. What we expect is him to perform better than he is. I know he’s a better player than this. “Has to keep working and it’s up to us to help facilitate that. That’s on him and on us to help him get back to being a productive player.” Howard is owed $60 million after this season. Amaro reiterated that releasing the player “has not been a thought.” Amaro was asked if he expected to see Howard in Clearwater in February. “I absolutely anticipate that to be the case, certainly,” he said. Howard, 34, is hitting .224 with 15 homers, 57 RBIs and 118 strikeouts in 371 at-bats this season. His OPS is .682 and ranks 126th out of 162 qualifying major-league hitters. His OPS ranks 21st out of 23 qualifying major-league first basemen. Over his last 25 games, Howard is hitting just .168 (16 for 95) with a .269 on-base percentage and a .221 slugging percentage. He has just three extra-base hits in that span. Howard has not played in the Phillies' last two games. He sat out against lefty Madison Bumgarner on Wednesday and did not play against right-hander Tim Hudson on Thursday. Howard had traditionally hit Hudson well so his absence from the lineup Thursday appeared to be a benching by manager Ryan Sandberg. Before the game, Sandberg mentioned that he was considering platooning Howard with right-handed hitter Darin Ruf. The Phillies face a lefty pitcher Friday night so it will be interesting to see what the manager does.