Phillies GM acknowledges Ryan Howard “could be backed up for a while” due to infection

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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.

Giancarlo Stanton will defend his Home Run Derby title

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The Marlins announced on Sunday that outfielder Giancarlo Stanton will defend his Home Run Derby title when the city of Miami host’s the All-Star Game festivities next month.

Stanton, 27, defeated Todd Frazier in the finals of last year’s Home Run Derby at Petco Park, hitting 20 home runs to Frazier’s 13. Stanton hit a total of 61 home runs in the Derby. This will be the third Home Run Derby in which Stanton has participated.

Stanton also went 1-for-3 with a solo home run to help the Marlins defeat the Cubs 4-2 on Sunday. He’s now batting .274/.357/.551 with 20 home runs and 49 RBI in 311 plate appearances.

Aaron Hicks to go on the disabled list with an oblique injury

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks left Sunday’s game against the Rangers after four innings due to soreness in his right oblique. After the game, Hicks said he expects to go on the 10-day disabled list and miss the next three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports.

Hicks was 1-for-2 with a single before departing on Sunday. He entered the game batting .288/.397/.515 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 198 plate appearances. It is by far the best season of his career.

Jacoby Ellsbury is on his way back from a concussion, so the Yankees will only have to bridge the gap in center field for a week or two. Mason Williams could draw some starts in center field in the meantime.