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: Tigers to hire Ron Gardenhire as new manager

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The Tigers are expected to hire Ron Gardenhire as the team’s new manager upon completion of a contract, per Ken Rosenthal and Katie Strang of The Athletic. Gardenhire, 59, spent the 2017 season serving as the bench coach for the Diamondbacks.

Gardenhire managed the Twins for 13 seasons between 2002-14, amassing a 1,068-1,039 (.507) record in the regular season and reaching the playoffs six times.

According to Strang and Rosenthal, Gardenhire was one of 10 candidates to interview with the Tigers. Others included Alex Cora, Mike Redmond, Fredi Gonzalez, Joe McEwing, Hensley Meulens, Dave Clark, and Omar Vizquel. Apparently, GM Al Avila wanted a manager with previous major league managing experience.

The Tigers parted ways with previous manager Brad Ausmus at the end of the 2017 regular season, his fourth year at the helm.