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.
The Padres may have some interest in acquiring Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, according to a recent report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It seems unlikely that the team would deal their starting third baseman with J.P. Crawford (fractured left hand) sidelined through July; to that end, however, they signed infielder Danny Espinosa as minor league depth on Friday and have reportedly been eying the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, among other veteran options.
Franco, 25, entered Sunday batting .255/.297/.425 with nine home runs and a .721 OPS in 229 plate appearances this season. While he has yet to live up to the .280+ average, 1.9+ fWAR he posted during his rookie campaign, he’s been a solid 20+ home run producer over the last few years and shown some stability at the hot corner. He’s also under team control for the next three years and could provide some much-needed insurance behind the Padres’ current third base option, 27-year-old Christian Villanueva.
Rosenthal notes that the Phillies could strike a deal for one of San Diego’s relievers, though no one specific has been connected to the team yet — and the club probably wouldn’t be able to finesse a one-for-one deal given the quality of the Padres’ pitchers. The Phillies’ bullpen has looked downright abysmal over the last month, placing 11th-worst in the league with a collective 5.34 ERA and 0.3 fWAR. Their failure to procure a viable reliever beyond Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano and Edubray Ramos lends a certain urgency to any potential deal they make over the next few weeks, though the official trade deadline is still over a month away.