When Dan Baker yelled Ryan Howard's name into the microphone behind home plate Monday at Citizens Bank Park, the crowd cheered. It was louder when Howard, wearing his No. 6 jersey, popped from the dugout and jogged to the first-base line for pregame introductions.
Charlie Manuel, standing near home plate, was surprised.
"Actually," the Phillies manager said, "I didn't want him to do that. He didn't just want to limp out there. But I didn't want him running. Matter of fact, I might have carried him if he asked me."
The progress for Howard is slow; he no longer must take antibiotics to treat an infection. But he is restricted until the wound totally heals, and that has yet to happen.
"My activities, it's all the same," Howard said. "The wound is what we're waiting on."
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Howard was scheduled to consult with wound specialists at the Rothman Institute on Thursday. Then, the team should have a better idea when Howard can extend himself.
Howard took ground balls during batting practice again Wednesday, but is still limited in his work. Before the infection and Feb. 27 surgical procedure, he was more active than he is now. Howard said he can do cardiovascular activities such as jumping rope.
He drove to Baltimore on Tuesday to see Mark Myerson, the specialist who performed procedures to repair his torn left Achilles and clean out a subsequent infection that has caused a setback in his recovery.
The tendon remains intact. The infection in the wound is gone, but it took nearly a month and a half to heal.
"His Achilles is doing great," Amaro said.
"The wound looks good," Howard said. "It looks healthy and clean. There's no more infection. Now we're just waiting for it to close."
Amaro said once that happens, the team can be aggressive with his recovery plan. Still, no timetable has been established, and Howard lost significant time with this setback.
"The wound was pretty deep," Amaro said. "I didn't have a really good grasp of this, but the wound was so deep you could almost stick your fingers in there. That's how deep it was at the outset. The wound heals from in to out. It has taken time because it was a significant wound."
Howard said he does not know when he will return to Florida to continue his rehabilitation. The Phillies will make a decision once the wound is completely healed.
The other injured star, Chase Utley, is in Phoenix to work with physical therapist Brett Fischer to strengthen his sore knees. Amaro previously said Utley would remain there until the Phillies arrive April 23 but admitted the second baseman could stay longer.
"I think more than anything else Chase is trying to work on his strength and his stability," Amaro said.
Jose Contreras, fresh off two promising outings at single-A Clearwater, will pitch on consecutive days beginning Thursday. If he passes those tests, he could be activated from the disabled list by the end of the weekend.
Contreras is building arm strength after September elbow surgery.
Chad Qualls said he is ready to go after the mysterious right-heel injury that briefly sidelined him. . . . Joey Cora managed the Marlins on Wednesday as Ozzie Guillen began his five-game suspension for controversial remarks about Fidel Castro.