As expected the Phillies have activated Ryan Howard from the disabled list and the former MVP will make his season debut tonight against the Braves, batting cleanup.
Hector Luna was optioned to Triple-A to make room on the roster for Howard, who went 10-for-20 (.500) with a homer and two doubles in seven minor-league games while rehabbing his torn Achilles’ tendon.
Howard’s return comes just seven games after Chase Utley made his season debut, so the Phillies’ lineup is suddenly pretty healthy and actually managed to be decent with the sixth-most runs in the league even without Utley and Howard for the first three months.
Philadelphia’s fill-in first basemen hit .258 with 12 homers and a .733 OPS in Howard’s absence to rank 18th among MLB teams. Last season Howard hit .253 with 33 homers and an .835 OPS in 152 games, driving in 100-plus runs for the sixth straight season but posting the worst OPS of his career and failing to top a .500 slugging percentage for the first time at age 31.
Jon Heyman reports that the Nationals are closing in on a deal with catcher Matt Wieters. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that it’s a two-year deal. UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal reports that the deal is for two years, at $21 million. There is an opt-out for him after year one. He will get $10 million in 2017 and, if he returns in 2018, he’ll get $11 million.
Wieters was not expected to go this long without signing, but his market, which many thought would be robust, never materialized. The Nats had been rumored to be interested for months, but they were apparently waiting to swoop in late and get what one presumes will be a bargain.
Wieters, 30, finished last season hitting .243/.302/.409 with 17 home runs and 66 RBI in 464 plate appearances. The Nationals currently have Derek Norris and Jose Lobaton, so who falls where in the catcher fight in Washington is unclear, but one presumes that Wieters getting a two-year deal puts him at the top of the depth chart.
Ken Rosenthal has an interesting story up about Sergio Romo as he begins spring training with his new team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
There is some fun stuff about his family, all Dodgers fans from southern California, but the more notable stuff is about Romo himself, who has dealt with a lot more than has been reported over the past couple of seasons. The loss of three of his four grandparents is a big one, as it has thrust the mantle of head of the family on Romo in ways that he was not fully prepared for. There are also allusions to personal and psychological problems Romo has experienced — there is a vague suggestion of alcohol or maybe just late nights out and perhaps depression, but he is not specific about it — which he worked on with the help of friends and teammates on the Giants and which he now has overcome.
There’s always more going on the lives of baseball players than we as fans know.