By Michael Donovan

Benched Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard is taking the high road.

“I don’t want to be a distraction for the other 24 guys in here,” he said yesterday. “Because to me, it’s always been about playing baseball, and that’s it. So I have to take care of what I have to take care of, and I don’t want to bring any extra burdens on these guys. Because they work hard, I know how hard they work. They don’t deserve it.”

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin benched Howard last week in favor of Tommy Joseph, who has done well since being given the chance to play every day. Mackanin said Howard will start Tuesday night’s game against the Cubs but will make a decision about how he will handle Joseph and Howard going forward “in the near future.”

“The whole thing is delicate,” Mackanin said. “A lot of it concerns me. I’m sure [Howard is] not happy with the position he’s in. I’m not happy about it. We’ve got to do something at some point, see what happens. It’s not a lot of fun.”

“It’s newsworthy, noteworthy, all of that kind of stuff,” Howard said. “As long as you try to make it [that way]. For me, I don’t focus on all of that stuff. I understand it’s going to be news and people are going to talk about it or whatever, but I’m not trying to put my focus there; I’m trying to put my focus on what I need to do to get back to where I need to be to be able to play and play at a high level.”

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