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.

Report: Mariners sign Juan Nicasio to a two-year deal

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Mariners have signed pitcher Juan Nicasio to a two-year contract, pending a physical.

Nicasio, 31, spent last season with the Pirates, Phillies, and Cardinals, putting up an aggregate 2.61 ERA with a 72/20 K/BB ratio in 72 1/3 innings. He appeared in 76 games, leading the National League.

Nicasio will help bolster the Mariners’ bullpen behind closer Edwin Diaz. It’s not known exactly what role he’ll have but it seems reasonable to assume he’ll handle mostly the seventh inning while Nick Vincent will set up for Diaz. Nicasio does have plenty of starting experience so he could also spot start in a pinch.