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.
Tossing a no-hitter doesn’t just require physical excellence; it’s a mental feat, too. Which is why it may have helped that Athletics hurler Sean Manaea didn’t realize his no-hitter was intact until the eighth inning of Saturday’s 3-0 win over the Red Sox.
While the first few innings passed uneventfully, Sandy Leon managed to reach base in the fifth inning after skying a ball to shallow center field. It wasn’t a clean hit, of course — shortstop Marcus Semien dropped the ball on the catch and was promptly charged with an error to preserve Manaea’s no-hit bid.
That was news to Manaea, who told reporters that he didn’t realize he still had a no-hitter going until he saw the scoreboard in the eighth inning. “Until the eighth, I thought it just like was a one-hitter,” he said. “I looked up in the eighth and saw there were still zeros and was like, whoa, weird.” The delay of that realization may have calmed his nerves as he continued to blank the best team in baseball, eventually capping his 108-pitch, 10-strikeout effort in the ninth.
A few fun facts about the feat:
- Manaea’s no-hitter was the 12th of its kind in franchise history, dating back to Weldon Henley’s no-no against the St. Louis Browns in 1905.
- The most recent pitcher to do so for the A’s was fellow left-hander Dallas Braden, who completed the club’s second-ever perfect game against the Rays in 2010. Surprisingly, Manaea managed to make even more efficient use of his pitch count than Braden did during his perfecto; he fired just 108 pitches against the Red Sox, a hair under the 109 pitches used by Braden against the Rays.
- Manaea himself, however, is just the seventh Athletics pitcher (and third lefty) to toss a no-hitter. Legendary southpaw Vida Blue pitched two no-nos for the team, including a combined no-hitter that also featured Glenn Abbott, Paul Lindblad and Rollie Fingers against the 1975 California Angels.
- Until Saturday, the Red Sox had the second-longest streak without being no-hit in the majors, at 3,987 games… a record that was only eclipsed by the A’s own streak.
- With a 17-2 record and .895 winning percentage, the Red Sox were the most successful team to be no-hit in major-league history. Prior to Saturday’s loss, they averaged 6.4 runs per game and had yet to be shut out by any team in 2018.
- Since 1908, 46 no-hitters have been pitched against AL East teams: four against the Blue Jays, five against the Rays, eight against the Yankees, 13 against the Red Sox and 16 against the Orioles. Mariners lefty Chris Bosio was the last pitcher to no-hit the Red Sox, a feat he accomplished almost exactly 25 years ago on April 22, 1993.