Ryan Howard could be cleared for more baseball activities soon

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It’s been a while since we’ve checked in on Ryan Howard’s rehab from Achilles tendon surgery, mostly because he hasn’t been doing a whole lot. While he ditched his protective boot about a month ago, he has been limited to strength exercises and basic on-field work. However, things could change soon.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that Howard is scheduled to visit with a specialist Monday. If the doctor is happy with his progress, he could be cleared for more baseball activities. The 32-year-old has yet to hit or run since undergoing a procedure in February to have stitches removed from an infected area of his Achilles.

Howard’s return date is still something of a mystery, but it can’t come soon enough for the power-starved Phillies. Their first baseman have combined to bat just .255/.321/.373 with one homer, seven RBI and a .694 OPS across 51 at-bats so far this season. The Phillies have a .617 OPS and seven homers through 14 games. Only the Cubs (five) have hit fewer home runs.

Yankees, Mariners expressing interest in J.A. Happ

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Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports that the Yankees and Mariners are both expressing interest in Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ.

Happ is posting a 3.48 ERA and a 94/25 K/BB ratio in 82.2 innings across 14 starts and has been stingy with the hits as well. Between that, the Blue Jays’ lack of contention and the fact that Happ is in the walk year of his three-year, $36 million deal, all signs point to the Jays trading them.

In normal circumstances you might not expect the Jays to make a trade with the Yankees, but at this point it sort of doesn’t matter, does it? It’s not like Happ in New York on a couple month rental will impact the 2018 Jays too much. And, given his pending free agency, it’s not extraordinarily likely that he’d haunt the Jays from the Bronx long term either.

There’s not a ton of elite pitching currently available, but as the trade deadline approaches — a little over a month to go on that score — the talk about Happ, Cole Hamels, Francisco Liriano and others will heat up. Figure the Yankees will be linked with any and all available starters.