MAIKEL FRANCO will fly to Clearwater today with the intention of joining the Phillies before their upcoming, three-city road trip comes to an end.

Franco was placed on the disabled list with a left wrist fracture on Aug. 18, a week after he was hit in the hand with a pitch in Arizona. But he has been doing light hitting drills for the last week and progressed yesterday to taking regular batting practice in the indoor cages at Citizens Bank Park.

Franco's goal is to finish out his rookie season at some point in the final 10 games in the schedule. The team begins a nine-game road trip in Atlanta tomorrow.

"It would mean a lot," Franco said of returning this season. "Because I know I would be ready to go. I know I would be 100 percent ready to play again. That's what I'm looking forward to. That's what I want to do. I want to make sure everything is fine and good in my wrist."

Franco said "everything was fine" following his hitting session yesterday, although he also said he wasn't 100 percent, either. After traveling today, he'll begin taking regular batting practice at the team's facilities in Clearwater; instructional league play begins next week.

The plan is for Franco to face live pitching in Florida for at least a few days. If he's deemed 100 percent within the next week to 10 days, there's a very good chance Franco will be cleared to return to the middle of the Phillies' lineup.

"The plan is to try to get him back into games at some point before the end of the season," interim general manager Scott Proefrock said.

The Phillies travel to Miami and Washington, in addition to Atlanta, on the upcoming road trip. They'll finish the season with six games at home with the Mets and Marlins.

When he returns, Franco will have some extra incentive to produce: Earlier this season, Jeff Francoeur promised Franco that he would buy him two suits if the rookie reached 15 home runs. Franco had 13 when he was placed on the DL.

"I'll try to do it," Franco said with a smile as he packed his bat bag.

Howard update

Ryan Howard walked around without crutches two days after he took a short-hop throw to his left knee, an injury that required a late-night emergency-room trip.

Howard needed crutches to get around on Monday night and on Tuesday, too. Although he was out of the lineup again last night - and uncertain for the upcoming three-game series in Atlanta - Howard walked around with a wrap on the knee and spoke confidently about returning to the lineup within the next two weeks.

"Just swelled up," Howard said. "It feels fine. Write it. Print it."

Howard will resume baseball activities when the swelling goes down. He said it swelled up enough after he returned home Monday night that he had to go to the ER to get his knee drained.

AN MRI on Howard's knee - which was operated on two summers ago - came back negative.

"I don't really have a good feel for when Ryan will be able to play," Proefrock said. "Nothing against [Andres Blanco], but I don't think we necessarily want to see him hitting in the four-hole going forward too often. And Ryan does lead the team in home runs and RBI. We want to win every game we can going down the stretch, and if he can help us win a game, put us in a better position to do that, I don't see any reason why he shouldn't play."

Phillers

Cesar Hernandez had successful surgery on his left thumb by hand specialist Dr. Randall Culp yesterday morning. Since the recovery time is estimated at be three months, Hernandez is expected to be cleared to begin regular activity before spring training gets underway in February . . . Elvis Araujo (left groin strain) threw a bullpen session yesterday. He will travel to Clearwater to continue his rehab. The Phillies expect him to be healthy enough to pitch in winter ball this offseason . . . 2015 first-round pick Cornelius Randolph and pitcher Felix Paulino were both named to the Gulf Coast League All-Star team. Randolph, the 10th overall pick in the draft, hit .302 with a .425 OBP and .866 OPS in 53 games with the Gulf Coast League Phillies. He hit one home run, three triples and 15 doubles in 172 at-bats, while also transitioning to the outfield. The 18-year-old Randolph began 2015 playing shortstop at Griffin High School in Georgia. Paulino, 20, went 5-4 with a 2.34 ERA in 11 games (10 starts) with the GCL Phillies . . . Jhailyn Ortiz will take part in instructional league play in Clearwater, beginning next week. The Phillies signed the 16-year-old Ortiz, a righthanded slugger from the Dominican who profiles as a first baseman or corner outfielder, for $4 million when the international signing period began in July.

On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

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