Ryan Howard to start rehab with minor league team
LAKEWOOD, N.J. (AP) - More than eight months after crumpling to the ground with an Achilles injury as the Philadelphia Phillies' season crumbled in the playoffs, Ryan Howard will be back on the field Thursday night in the same Jersey shore stadium where he starred as a minor leaguer.
The 32-year-old former NL MVP will begin a rehab assignment with the Class A Lakewood Blue Claws, where he played in 2002.
The team said Howard, a three-time All-Star, will be the designated hitter at FirstEnergy Park as the BlueClaws take on the West Virginia Power.
It's his first game since rupturing an Achilles tendon after grounding to second for the final out of Game 5 of the National League Division Series.
How well - and quickly - Howard progresses through rehab, along with how well Chase Utley does in his own return from injury may well determine whether the Phils are buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. Philadelphia dropped a 5-4 decision to Pittsburgh Thursday afternoon for their second straight loss after a modest win streak, and sit in last place in the NL East, 9 1/2 games behind Washington. Utley returned on Wednesday, and homered in his first at-bat.
Howard had been doing rehab work and conditioning exercises in Clearwater, Fla., since April, and got clearance on Wednesday to begin game action on Thursday.
If his rehab goes the full 20 days, Howard could rejoin the Phillies July 18 in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.
During a visit to Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia shortly before Utley homered, Howard said he felt good but cautioned he might not feel 100 percent until next season.
Howard has made previous rehab starts in Lakewood while recuperating from injuries in 2007 and 2010, when the team retired his No. 29 uniform number.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC
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