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.

Steven Matz likely to start season on DL; Zack Wheeler to adhere to innings limit

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Mets manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday, “It’s unlikely that [Steven Matz] will start the season with us.” The final spot in the Mets’ starting rotation will go to either Zack Wheeler or Seth Lugo, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports.

On Wheeler’s innings limit, assistant GM John Ricco said, “There’s going to be some number but we don’t exactly know what that is.” Wheeler missed the last two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Neither Wheeler nor Lugo have had terrific springs as each carries a 5.11 and 5.56 Grapefruit League ERA, respectively. However, Carig notes that Wheeler has impressed simply by appearing healthy and brandishing a fastball that once again sits in the mid- to high-90’s. Lugo, meanwhile, proved crucial to the Mets last year, posting a 2.67 ERA across eight starts and nine relief appearances.

Rockies sign 30-year lease to stay in Coors Field

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Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports that the Rockies agreed to a $200 million, 30-year lease with the Metropolitan Baseball Stadium District, which is the state division that owns Coors Field. As part of the deal, the Rockies will lease and develop a plot of land south of the stadium, which will cost the team $125 million for 99 years.

As Groke points out, had the Rockies not reached a deal by Thursday, March 30, the lease would have rolled over for five more years.

Rockies owner Dick Monfort issued a statement, saying, “We are proud that Coors Field will continue to be a vital part of a vibrant city, drawing fans from near and far and making our Colorado residents proud.”

The Rockies moved into Coors Field in 1995. It is the National League’s third oldest stadium. In that span of time, the Rockies have made the playoffs three times, the last coming in 2009 when they lost in the NLDS to the Phillies. The Rockies were swept in the 2007 World Series by the Red Sox.