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.

Brandon Crawford homers off brother-in-law Gerrit Cole

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You can’t pick your family and no one knows that better than Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. His sister Amy married Astros starter Gerrit Cole in November 2016, so the two players are brothers-in-law.

The two players have matched up against each other 18 times in the past, as Cole spent his first five seasons in the National League with the Pirates. Cole often won that battle, holding Crawford to four hits — all singles — in 18 plate appearances.

Crawford finally got the better of Cole on Tuesday night, hitting a line drive into the appropriately-named Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid Park for a two-run home run, cutting the Astros’ lead to 5-2.