Ryan Howard takes grounders, hits in indoor cage

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Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has been on the disabled list since August 2, a day after he suffered a badly sprained left ankle while running the bases.  So far progress has been slow, but he did take a major step Thursday.

According to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Howard took ground balls at first base and even took some hacks in an indoor batting cage on Thursday afternoon at Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park.  He still has some swelling in the ankle and isn’t fully free of discomfort, but that should come soon.

“He’s doing real well,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said after watching Thursday’s workout. “He’s coming along really good. It’s just a matter of time.”

Howard is still targeting August 17 as a possible return date, but that seems unlikely at the moment, especially if the Phillies ask him to head out on a minor league rehab assignment.  The 30-year-old was batting .292 with an .884 OPS, 23 home runs and 81 RBI in 101 games before the injury.

Gio González exits NLCS Game 4 start after twisting ankle

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Brewers starter Gio González was forced to exit his NLCS Game 4 start against the Dodgers in the second inning after twisting his left ankle attempting to field a comebacker hit by Yasiel Puig. González leaped, deflected the ball and twisted his ankle landing, then went after the ball but Puig reached base easily.

The Brewers’ trainer and manager Craig Counsell came out to the mound to observe González throwing some practice pitches. He was clearly in pain but was allowed to stay in. He threw one pitch to Austin Barnes and very visibly grimaced after completing his wind-up. Counsell came back out to the mound and took a visibly upset González out of the game. Freddy Peralta came in relief to finish out the at-bat. González probably shouldn’t have been allowed to stay in the game in the first place, but sometimes a player’s competitiveness is enough to convince a manager and a trainer.

Upon entering, Peralta issued a walk to Austin Barnes, then got the first out when Rich Hill laid down a mediocre bunt, allowing Peralta to get the lead runner at third base. Peralta struck out Chris Taylor and walked Justin Turner to load the bases with two outs. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts opted to pinch-hit for David Freese with Max Muncy, who struck out looking. Peralta was somehow able to slither out of the jam.

Gonzalez pitched two innings in NLCS Game 1 on Friday. He was quite good after joining the Brewers in a late-August trade with the Nationals, compiling a 2.13 regular season ERA in five starts with his new club. The Brewers will likely provide an update on his status after Tuesday night’s game.