The Phillies have downplayed the severity of the infection that developed two weeks ago around Ryan Howard’s surgically-repaired Achilles tendon.
But it sure sounds like a pretty major setback.
According to beat reporter Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Howard will be in a walking boot for the next 10 days as he recovers from a cleanup procedure designed to remove the infection and has been instructed to stay away from the Phillies’ spring training complex indefinitely.
Howard was cleared for light workouts shortly after his arrival to Phillies camp, but he’s now been idle since February 25 and nobody can say for certain when he might be cleared to return to action.
“I don’t know when he’s going to start baseball activities,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Sunday. “I don’t have any idea. I don’t have any time frame one way or another. Hopefully he can get the boot off as soon as possible and we can be sure. We’re not going to do anything with him unless we’re sure the infection is out. He could be backed up for a while. I don’t know. I really don’t know. I don’t have any time frame.”
Howard was originally aiming to return sometime in May, but it’s safe to wonder whether he’s in danger of missing the entire first half. The 32-year-old slugger tallied 33 homers and 116 RBI in 152 games last season.
You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.
Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.
Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.
Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.