Analysis

Howard, Hamels Among Healing Phillies

Can Ryan Howard make a full comeback before the season begins? (PHOTO AP)

According to CSNPhilly.com, Ryan Howard is about to take the next step in his recovery from offseason Achillies tendon surgery. Howard, 32, has been cleared to begin strength and power exercises after being cleared by doctors. The Phillies hope to have him taking part in “baseball activities” in six weeks, which would roughly be the start of Spring Training.

This is certainly good news, but it’s best to take with cautious optimism (if you’re a Howard fan, that is). Howard is expected to miss some time this season as he deals with a delicate injury. However, the seeds have been planted for his return. No matter what you think of Howard, his powerful bat – when healthy – is vital to this team becoming and staying a playoff contender. Perhaps a healed Howard will yield better results than last season. Who knows how long he was dealing with this injury and who knows the severity of it throughout the year.

In other Phillies updates, Cole Hamels is throwing after having loose bodies removed from his left elbow this Winter. CSN says he’s feeling fine, which is quite a sigh of relief for us all. Anytime you mess with the pitching arm, it’s cause for some concern, no matter how minor the procedure. Seems like Hamels is very much on track to be ready to go for the 2012 season.

Jose Contreras was cleared to begin throwing after right elbow surgery. Contreras will be counted on to provide some stability out of the bullpen behind Jonathan Papelbon and Antonio Bastardo. Not sure how much the Big Truck has left in the Big Tank, but they’ll need him to live up to the $2.5 million he’s set to make.

Placido Polanco also tells CSN he’s feeling good after double hernia surgery this offseason. Not sure I need to stress the importance of a healthy Polly this year. It was quite clear from 2011 that the Phillies need a solid third baseman, and when Polanco is at full speed he’s a great defender and pain to get out at the plate. Exactly what they need.

Finally, Hunter Pence is almost ready to eat again. Not literally, but his sports hernia is healing nicely and he’s expected to be ready for Spring Training. Bright House Field in Clearwater is expected to be open on or around February 18. Not too far down the road.

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