MIAMI - Ryan Howard is not a fatalist except when it comes to matters of health, those of which are generally beyond the $125 million first baseman's control. He will take his chances. A cortisone shot reduced the pain from inflammation in his left knee. A doctor examined it and proclaimed him fit for action.
So manager Charlie Manuel inserted Howard into his customary cleanup spot Tuesday after a two-game absence. In the short term, the injection did its job, as Howard delivered three hits and three RBIs in a 7-3 victory. What about the long-term prognosis of playing on an injured knee?
"I guess if I blow up," Howard said before the game, "then I'd be worried about that then."
"I mean, right now it feels pretty good," he said. "As far as all of that, I'm sure we'll continue to keep an eye on it."
On Monday, head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan said inconsistencies in Howard's left meniscus (cartilage) "concerned us." Tests were inconclusive as to whether Howard had torn it. Even if he did, it's an injury players will trudge through, Sheridan said. Howard appears willing.
His left Achilles was surgically repaired in October 2011. Sheridan could not say whether the two injuries were related. He did admit it was possible.
"All I know is it hurts," Howard said. "If it hurts, it hurts. It's like sometimes you can't explain whatever it is, so you have to go to the doctor and have them tell you what's going on. All you know is something hurts."
Manuel said he would monitor Howard. He did not offer a plan for increased rest.
"When they tell me he's ready to go," the manager said, "he's ready to go."
Howard said the knee hurt most when he ran. That was not hard to see. At times, Howard runs with a strained gait, one that has looked painful ever since his Achilles surgery.
He said he would not know the true effect of the cortisone shot until playing a full game. The pain came in waves, starting in spring training, and was worst Saturday. Howard disclosed it before that game.
The Phillies, of course, have a substantial investment in Howard. They will pay him a guaranteed $85 million from 2014 to 2016.
Faced with the prospect of spending the next four months on one healthy knee, Howard was content with his diagnosis and treatment. Then again, it is quite murky.
"I don't know," Howard said. "I'm not a doctor, I just play first base."