Ryan Howard began fielding ground balls and taking batting practice this week, but his rehab from a torn Achilles will be put on hold for a couple of days so he can visit with surgeon Mark Myerson in Baltimore on Monday or Tuesday.
There appears to be a minor difference of opinion on the nature of the visit, as Phillies manager Charlie Manuel told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that Howard had a little “a little setback” while general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. and assistant general manager Scott Proefrock indicated that his visit to Myerson is nothing more than a routine check-up.
“He’s come along good,” Manuel said. “He had a little setback, but the setback is nothing to get alarmed about. It’ll be healed up and he’ll be fine. The doctors and the trainers say he’s ahead of pace.”
“Sometimes they leave a little stitch in to dissolve,” he said. “It’s sticking out and causing a little soreness.”
Keep in mind that Howard was hitting on the field today, so it’s safe to say the Phillies wouldn’t have had him out there if there was any cause for concern.
Barring a significant setback, Howard could be back in the Phillies’ starting lineup sometime in May. Ty Wigginton, Jim Thome and John Mayberry, Jr. are expected to fill in at first base until he’s ready.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.
The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.
Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.
Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”