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.
Josh Hamilton is not and never was a key part of the 2017 Texas Rangers plans. He was in camp and under contract and had at least a chance to make the team, but the Rangers fate as a ballclub did not depend on him. It would merely be nice for them if he revealed that he had a bit left in the tank and if he could, like a lot of other superstars in baseball history, give them one last season of decent production in part time play as a matter of depth and flexibility.
As such, this development is more unfortunate for Josh Hamilton and those who root for him than it is for the Rangers as a club, but it is unfortunate all the same:
That’s the fourth surgery he’s had on that knee in less than two years and the 11th knee surgery he’s had overall in his baseball career. It’s sad to say but safe to say that Hamilton’s days in baseball are numbered if not over completely. At some point an athlete’s body can only take so much.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.