Ryan Howard homers in rehab game, nears Phillies return

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It’s unclear if Ryan Howard’s surgically repaired Achilles’ tendon is ready to handle playing in the majors again, but his bat sure looks fine.

Howard went 2-for-3 with a homer and four RBIs in a minor-league rehab game yesterday at Triple-A and is now 8-for-17 (.471) with a homer, two doubles, and nine RBIs in six rehab games overall.

His homer yesterday came off former big leaguer John Maine, who’s now pitching at Triple-A for the Yankees, and John Finger of CSNPhilly.com reports that Howard also played seven innings defensively at first base without any issues.

For now he’s scheduled to play Triple-A games Thursday and Friday, at which point Howard could be cleared to come off the disabled list and rejoin the Phillies for the first time since tearing his Achilles’ tendon making the final out of last year’s NLDS.

Nick Williams has been trying to sell Jake Arrieta on the Phillies

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CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that Phillies outfielder Nick Williams has been working out daily with free agent starter Jake Arrieta in Austin. The right-hander, who won the 2015 National League Cy Young Award, still remains teamless with spring training less than a month away. Williams has been trying to sell Arrieta on joining the Phillies.

Williams said of Arrieta, “He loves it here [Austin]. He has told me he likes working with young guys. I’m like, ‘All right, come on up.’ But I’m not writing the check. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t really dig into that because I’m not really in his position.”

On GM Matt Klentak’s hunt for pitching help, new manager Gabe Kapler said, “The pursuit is very real. I have a lot of trust that we’ll either go in [to spring training] with a new toy or we will pass on the opportunity because we’re better off giving this collection of pitchers a really healthy look because we thought that we could go acquire that piece a little bit later on this season or in the offseason next year.”

Arrieta, who turns 32 years old in March, went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA and a 163/55 K/BB ratio in 168 1/3 innings last season with the Cubs. The Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers have been linked to Arrieta this month.

Presently, the Phillies’ starting rotation figures to include Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vince Velasquez along with some combination of Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Mark Leiter, and Jake Thompson. Arrieta would certainly amount to a big upgrade in the starting rotation and could make the Phillies a more attractive landing spot for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, who become free agents after the 2018 campaign. The Phillies are expected to be in the mix for either or both players.