Ryan Howard is six weeks from starting baseball activities

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Ryan Howard met with a doctor yesterday and was given positive news about his recovery from a torn Achilles’ tendon suffered during his final at-bat of the playoffs in October.

Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports that Howard has been cleared “to begin some strength and power exercises” and “also will start jogging underwater.”

However, he likely remains at least six weeks away from being cleared for baseball activities, which stretches right up until the beginning of spring training and makes him doubtful for Opening Day (and perhaps all of April).

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. declined to “speculate” about Howard’s odds of being ready for season opener, but classified the update on his recovery as “good news.”

Expect the Phillies to begin the season with Ty Wigginton and perhaps a little bit of Jim Thome at first base, but barring a setback it sounds like Howard could be available sooner than initially expected.

Jose Altuve leads all vote-getters in All-Star balloting

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The latest update to the All-Star voting is in and it reveals that Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is the leading vote-getter in all of baseball. Altuve, on his way to his sixth All-Star appearance and fourth starting selection in a row, has has 1,572,101 votes. Altuve leads the Majors with a .342 batting average and 102 hits.

At other positions Tampa Bay Rays catcher Wilson Ramos has overtaken Gary Sánchez of the New York Yankees at catcher, José Abreu of the White Sox leads at first, third base is led by José Ramírez of the Indians, Manny Machado of Orioles leads at short, Boston’s J.D. Martinez paces the DHs and the Sox’ Mookie Betts, the Angels’ Mike Trout and the Yankees’ Aaron Judge round out the starters.

Vote totals: