Last season ended just a few weeks too early, and in a way too terrible manner. On what ended up being the last play of the season, Phillies’ slugger, Ryan Howard, hit a weak ground ball to first, and on his way down fell and was never able to make it. He ended up tearing his Achilles tendon.
The very next day people began to wonder when would he be back, and if it would be in time for next season. Some doctors said it might take a year, others said a few months, but either way he would not be ready for spring training. Well, it is Spring Training and, while Howard is not at full speed, he is ahead of schedule.
Around 10:00 am on Wednesday morning, Howard took his first live batting practice since tearing the tendon. And while he could not completely turn on the ball, he was still able to hit it all around the out field and even sent 2 over the fence, an extremely promising sign. When asked Howard would offer no time table for his return, saying, “I won’t be at full strength for a while, but I feel good.”
Since arriving to Clearwater early, he has been able to take ground balls and jog lightly, but he is still not in playing shape. For part of the time, when he takes ground balls, he sits on a chair and fields them, and when he jogs he has a obvious limp. However, even with these problems it looks like he is not far from being back.
While at the Philies training facility, Howard has been asked questions not only about his tendon, but also about how he feels being the last man at the plate the last 2 seasons. Howard has responded,
“It sucks, I’m not going to lie. And I know how it looks to everybody, like having the season come down and you’re that guy. But I try to look at it positive like, the last two seasons I got out, I figure I’m about due. I’d love to be in that situation again.”
With the 2012 season right around the corner and a lot of questions regarding the Phillies offensive capabilities, Howard could be a key piece in their success. He is coming into the first year of his 5 year, $125 million dollar extension and a great year is what he needs to get fans back on his side. However, the constantly declining numbers of most of the Phillies offense is very concerning, especially because he has normally been the centerpiece of a home-run driven offense.