Could we be seeing the beginning of the end of the Ryan Howard era with the Phillies?

It started out as a platoon with Darin Ruf, with Howard facing right-handed pitching and Ruf playing against lefties.  However, that only netted Ruf six starts at first base, even though Howard was struggling to the tune of .154.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said following the Phillies loss in Chicago on Sunday that he plans to get Tommy Joseph more playing time against right-handed pitching, putting Ryan Howard on the bench.

“We brought Joseph up here for a reason, to get a look at him, and I can’t let him stagnate on the bench like (Darin) Ruf ended up doing," Mackanin said. "So he’s going to face some right-handed pitchers to keep his timing, I don't know when the next time we're going to face a left-handed pitcher, but i'm going to use him (Joseph) a little more often than I did with Ruf."

Joseph was called up from AAA Lehigh Valley back on May 13 after hitting .347 with six homers - since his call-up the former catcher has pounded out  10 hits with three homers through his first 35 at-bats with the big club.

While the Howard debate has been going on for a few years now, this is really the first time the manager has come out and said that he was going to start sitting him more regularly - especially against right-handed pitching.

Ryan Howard is hitting .154 and could start losing more and more playing time to Tommy Joseph. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

However, Phillies GM Matt Klentak recently told MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM that Howard wasn't in danger of losing playing time.

"Ryan can still do something that not a lot of players in this game can do and not a lot of player on our roster can do," Klentak told the show. "He is a threat to change the game with a home run every time he steps in to the batters box.  As long as that's the case there is a place for him here - we can certainly use the power in our line-up."

Howard is hitting .154 with eight homers and 18 RBIs in 136 at-bats in 44 games this season.

"Ryan is leading out team in home runs, he is on pace  to close to a 30 homer season in a platoon role, that's not easy to do," Klentak said.  "I can respect that fact that he is hitting .160 and has stuck out a fair amount, I get all that.  He's not the player that he was 10 years ago - we all recognize that."

Most Phillies fans have been able to recognize that for some time now.