The Phillies are languishing in last place in the National League East with a 37-46 record, their worst start since 1997.
The preseason favorites are now twelve games behind the Nationals-that’s a lot of ground to make up. A big part of that disappointing record is due to injuries, which reads like an All-Star team lineup: Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Vance Worley, Jim Thome, and a multitude of others.
Ryan Howard’s last major league appearance was in the Phils’ final game of the 2011 season against St Louis. That was the dreaded night that he tore his Achilles tendon. Since then he’s been rehabbing his way back, first through the Class-A Lakeland Blue Claws and now with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs. Last season the leftie hit 33 home runs and knocked in 116 RBI’s for the Phils.
By all reports, Howard seems to be getting his groove back. His main priority is to find his rhythm again with his swing and body coordination. “A lot of it’s just getting used to the game speed and just kind of getting the reads off bats defensively and getting my feel and timing back defensively,” said Howard.
A torn Achilles tendon means a lot of downtime before the physical conditioning actually starts. Unfortunately, players tend to gain weight during this period and lose muscle tone, making the challenge of returning to fighting form even tougher.
In Ryan Howard’s case, the rehab appears to be right on schedule as he re-adjusts to the game and strengthens his muscles and playing skills a little at a time. In his third game for the Iron Pigs on Tuesday night, Howard had his best game of 2012’s rehab stint. He not only played seven innings at first base for the first time this season, but he also blasted his first home run, going 2-for-3 with the two-run homer and four RBIs. He did however exit the field in the eight inning for a pinch runner.
Patients are always anxious to get back to their pre-injury level of activity as soon as possible, and I’m sure that professional athletes are no different. Howard has yet to play a game for the Phillies in the first year of his five-year, $125 million contract. Naturally, the Phillies are anxious to get him back in the lineup… but not too fast, or he’ll risk a re-injury of his Achilles tendon, which could very well mean the end of his career.
As of today, the Phillies are hoping that Howard can return to the lineup after the All-Star break, July 9-12. But as Howard said, “It all depends how I feel and how quickly I can get back to the flow of the game. I’m just taking it one game at a time here and keep playing games.”