Ryan Howard taking ground balls after torn Achilles

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Ryan Howard isn’t scheduled for his first media session of the spring until Wednesday, but it appears he’s ahead of schedule in his rehab from the torn Achilles’ tendon he suffered on the final play of the Phillies’ season.

According to CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury, Howard took some grounders on the field and also soft-toss swings in the batting cage on Monday.

“He did good, really good,” manager Charlie Manuel said.

Howard is still walking with a bit of a limp and appears heavier than his typical playing weight, but that was to be expected considering that the leg limited his workouts.

The guess over the winter was that Howard would return to the Phillies lineup around two months into the season, but the picture appears to be a bit rosier now. He still figures to miss April, but maybe not much more than that.

John Mayberry Jr., Ty Wigginton and Jim Thome all figure to see time at first base until Howard returns.

Nationals acquire Kelvin Herrera from Royals

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Update (8:06 PM ET): The Royals will receive minor leaguers Blake Perkins, Kelvin Gutiérrez, and Yohanse Morel from the Nationals, per Heyman. The trade is official as the Nationals and Royals have announced the deal.

Perkins, 21, is the Nationals’ No. 11 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. The outfielder was selected by the Nationals in the second round of the 2015 draft. This season, with High-A Potomac, Perkins hit .234/.344/.290 in 305 plate appearances.

Gutiérrez, 23, is rated by MLB Pipeline as the Nats’ No. 10 prospect. The club signed him as an international free agent in April 2013. With Double-A Harrisburg this season, the third baseman hit .274/.321/.391 in 249 trips to the plate.

Morel, 17, is not in the Nats’ Top-30 as the club signed him last July as an international free agent. In one start in the Dominican Summer League, Morel allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits and a walk with five strikeouts across 3 1/3 innings.

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Nationals are close to acquiring reliever Kelvin Herrera from the Royals. Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post says three minor leaguers are going from the Nats to the Royals.

Herrera, 28, has been outstanding for the last-place Royals. He owns a 1.05 ERA with 14 saves and a 22/2 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings. Herrera is a free agent after the season, so this is effectively a rental for the Nationals, who are three games behind the Braves for first place in the NL East.

Herrera will help bolster the Nats’ bullpen behind closer Sean Doolittle, who has 17 saves and a 1.52 ERA. It’s not known yet how the Nationals will handle the closer’s role with Herrera in the mix. One would imagine Herrera slides into the set-up role behind Doolittle.