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.

Blue Jays score seven runs in ninth to come back and beat Rays 9-8

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The Blue Jays’ playoff hopes were dashed a long, long time ago, but they’re happy to play spoiler as the end of the regular season draws near. On Thursday evening, the Jays trailed the Rays 8-2 entering the bottom of the ninth inning. They proceeded to put up a seven-spot to walk off 9-8 winners, handing the Rays a devastating loss in the midst of their quest to reach the postseason.

Dwight Smith started things off with a leadoff double against Jaime Schultz. Rowdy Tellez followed up by doubling him in. Jonathan Davis was hit by a pitch and then, after Reese McGuire struck out, Danny Jansen hit a three-run homer to left field. Enter Sergio Romo. Romo struck out Richard Ureña, but then allowed a single to Kendrys Morales, a two-run homer to Lourdes Gurriel, then a walk-off solo homer to Justin Smoak.

According to FanGraphs, the Jays had a 0.4 percent chance of winning entering the bottom of the ninth inning. Their probability rose to a measly 4.8 percent after Morales singled. Gurriel’s homer made it 53.8 percent, an increase of a whopping 49 percent.

After the awful loss, the Rays fall to 6.5 games behind the Athletics — who won 21-3 over the Angels earlier — for the second Wild Card in the American League. They have 10 games remaining.