Phillies' Howard restarts rehab
CLEARWATER, Fla. — Shortly before 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Ryan Howard hobbled to the warning track of Ashburn Field at the Carpenter Complex. Wearing a large boot that comes halfway up his left knee, Howard threw a baseball to Phillies head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan. He was back on the field.
CLEARWATER, Fla. — Shortly before 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Ryan Howard hobbled to the warning track of Ashburn Field at the Carpenter Complex. Wearing a large boot that comes halfway up his left knee, Howard threw a baseball to Phillies head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan.
He was back on the field.
For 18 days, Howard was a ghost. "I guess it was a like 'Where's Waldo?' type deal," he said. He watched Grapefruit League games on TV in Florida. He popped into the clubhouse occasionally to say hello.
But the recovery from a torn Achilles and subsequent infection that required a second surgical procedure was largely halted. The Phillies had initially established a best-case scenario of May for Howard's return. That would take a near miracle now.
Howard does not know how much longer the boot will remain. The new wound created to clean the old one is still healing.
"I'm trying to do what I can," Howard said, "so when I'm actually out of the boot I can hit the ground running."
Kevin Frandsen, an infielder in Phillies camp who ruptured his Achilles tendon in 2008, warned there would be setbacks and frustration during what is a complication rehab process. Howard said it was nothing more than an annoyance.
"I've just tried to stay positive through the entire thing," Howard said. "These kinds of things happen. The only thing you can do is stay positive. If you start to get down on yourself it's not going to help the situation either way. I'm just looking at it as a positive, trying to keep it on the up and up."
The Phillies and Howard have maintained optimism in the fact the Achilles tendon remains intact. The infection slowed things, but it wasn't the catastrophic scenario.
Because of that, Howard does not believe he must start from scratch once the boot comes up.
"I doubt it. I really doubt it," Howard said. "From where I had to start before, I had a bum Achilles. We had to strengthen that up. But my Achilles each day, even though I'm not doing some of the stuff I was doing before, is still getting stronger just through rest. My goal and hope is once I get out of the boot we can hit the ground running and pick up where we left off."
Howard will continue to do modified exercises like riding a bike and range-of-motion movements with his leg. The boot limits everything, but he was cleared to begin a conditioning program.
Still, Howard has missed a considerable chunk of recovery time. The procedure to clean the wound was performed Feb. 27. And until the boot comes off, baseball activities will be limited to simple tasks like long tossing.
"It's exhilarating," a sarcastic Howard said. "I even got to field a ball from batting practice that came at me. I still got it."
Better than watching on TV, at least.
Contact Matt Gelb at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @magelb.