Ryan Howard taking ground balls after torn Achilles

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Ryan Howard isn’t scheduled for his first media session of the spring until Wednesday, but it appears he’s ahead of schedule in his rehab from the torn Achilles’ tendon he suffered on the final play of the Phillies’ season.

According to CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury, Howard took some grounders on the field and also soft-toss swings in the batting cage on Monday.

“He did good, really good,” manager Charlie Manuel said.

Howard is still walking with a bit of a limp and appears heavier than his typical playing weight, but that was to be expected considering that the leg limited his workouts.

The guess over the winter was that Howard would return to the Phillies lineup around two months into the season, but the picture appears to be a bit rosier now. He still figures to miss April, but maybe not much more than that.

John Mayberry Jr., Ty Wigginton and Jim Thome all figure to see time at first base until Howard returns.

Report: Phillies moving in on a deal with Tommy Hunter

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Update (8:40 PM ET): Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Hunter’s contract with the Phillies is for two years.

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There’s been a bit of confusion at the Winter Meetings. First, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the Phillies were close to signing free agent reliever Addison Reed. That report was then disputed by Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer then reported that not only do the Phillies not have a deal with Reed, they’re actually moving in on a deal with free agent pitcher Tommy Hunter. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic backed up Gelb’s report, as did Todd Zolecki of MLB.com.

Hunter, 31, spent the past season with the Rays, posting a 2.61 ERA with a 64/14 K/BB ratio across 58 2/3 innings. The right-hander, a veteran of 10 seasons in the majors, should be a good addition to the Phillies’ bullpen, which also recently added Pat Neshek. Neshek and Hunter will likely work the innings just ahead of closer Hector Neris.

As for Reed, well, who knows.