Ryan Howard takes first round of live batting practice

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Phillies slugger Ryan Howard is slowly but surely making progress from the torn Achilles tendon that he suffered on the final play of the 2011 NLDS.

According to the AP, via NBCSports.com, Howard took batting practice from a live pitcher Wednesday in Phillies camp for the first time since the injury.

The first baseman spoke to a group of reporters shortly after the workout and sounded optimistic:

“I feel good where I am right now,” Howard said. “I don’t know what everybody else’s expectations were for me to be at this point, but I feel good. Not exactly where I want to be yet. There is still a lot of strengthening that needs to take place, change of direction and working on those kinds of things. But I feel all right.

I’ve been talking with the training staff and I’ve been able to do some things, taking some ground balls, doing some hitting, doing baseball-type movements.”

Early projections had Howard returning at some point in May, and he seems to be on track. The 32-year-old batted .253/.346/.488 with 33 home runs, 30 doubles and 116 RBI in 152 games last season.