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.

Japanese outfielder Yoshida to negotiate with MLB teams

Masataka Yoshida
Yukihito Taguchi/USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO — Outfielder Masataka Yoshida will be able to negotiate with Major League Baseball teams starting Wednesday under the posting system with the Japanese big leagues.

A member of Japan’s Olympic team last year, Yoshida will be posted at 8 a.m. EST on Wednesday and MLB teams have until 5 p.m. EST on Jan. 20 to reach an agreement, the commissioner’s office said Tuesday.

The 29-year-old hit .335 with 21 homers and 88 RBIs in 119 games this year for the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s Pacific League. A left-handed batter, he has a .327 average with 133 homers and 467 RBIs over seven seasons in the Japanese majors.

Yoshida hit .350 with two RBIs as Japan won last year’s Olympic gold medal.

Under 2017 changes to the posting system, the posting fee will be 20% of the first $25 million of a major league contract, including earned bonuses and options. The percentage drops to 17.5% of the next $25 million and 15% of any amount over $50 million. There would be a supplemental fee of 15% of any earned bonuses, salary escalators and exercised options.

Hard-throwing right-hander Kodai Senga, another member of the Olympic team, is a free agent and does not have to go through the posting system because he has 11 seasons of service time in the Japanese major leagues.

Senga, who turns 30 in January, was 11-6 with a 1.94 ERA in 22 starts for the Pacific League’s Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. He pitched three scoreless innings in two outings against the U.S. in the Olympics, allowing one hit and striking out six with two walks.