Howard preps for return, won't be 100 percent
Ryan Howard had a message for all the fantasy baseball players and stat heads out there — the stolen bases totals are going to dip. Of course with just 12 stolen bases in his eight seasons in the big leagues, there isn’t much to subtract.
The speed may be gone for now, but as Howard begins his comeback from surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles, he’s ready to put it to the test.
“Initially, the first couple of steps were always an issue,” Howard said, describing his running prowess post-surgery to the media in Philadelphia for the first time this season on Wednesday night. “As of late it’s gotten a lot better. It’s not going to be Olympic-time trail type speed, I know you guys are going to be real disappointed with that, but whatever I got is what I’m going to give. It’s definitely gotten better with all the progressions and I’m happy with where it is right now."
But that gets to Howard’s point… he’s not going to be blazing around the bases with much alacrity when he returns to. In fact, he says, he still runs with a bit of a limp, though he expects that to work itself out. Still, out since he collapsed in a heap along the first-base line on the final play of the 2011, Howard is finally getting ready to head off on a rehab assignment; he'll DH in Single A Lakewood (N.J.) on Thursday night.
From there, however, Howard isn’t quite sure when he will rejoin the Phillies, as the team slowly begins to put the pieces back in place. Howard’s return to Philadelphia following an extended spring training in Clearwater, Fla. comes the same day Chase Utley returned to the lineup for the first time this season. Utley has missed the first 76 games of the season with a case of chondomalacia in his knee, the same ailment that sidelined him for the first 46 games last season.
Still, Howard’s return to the lineup could have the biggest affect. Averaging 45 homers and 136 RBIs over 162 games, Howard is a game-changer on a team that could use a slugger in the middle of the order. And though Howard may not be as fleet afoot as he once was, he isn’t worried about cutting loose with the bat. In fact, Howard says of all the things to worry about when he rejoins the Phillies, hitting might be the least pressing concern.
“Hitting-wise I don’t feel any difference,” he said. "It’s one of those things I don’t even think about. I’m able to get up on the ball of my foot on my swing, on my follow through. Swing-wise, I don’t feel any difference. So to me, that’s a non-factor.”
At least it is so far. Howard admitted he still isn’t 100 percent and probably won’t be all the back for the rest of the season.
“Honestly, who knows,” Howard said. “Maybe not until next year. But you know if it’s 80, 85 percent, the only thing I can do is give you 100 percent of 85 percent.”
That’s where the hitting comes in. If Howard can still bop them over the fence, it doesn’t matter how quickly he gets around the bases.
In the meantime, he's more concerned with how quickly he can get back into the Phillies’ lineup. When Howard does begin his rehab assignment, he will have 20 days to get ready. Chances are it will be much quicker than that.E-mail John Finger at email@example.com