Ryan Howard cleared for baseball activities, heading to Phillies’ spring training complex

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Hey, it’s positive Ryan Howard health news!

According to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, the 32-year-old first baseman has been cleared for baseball activities and will report to the Phillies’ spring training complex in Clearwater, Florida on Monday morning to begin daily workouts.

He will begin by fielding ground balls and playing catch before progressing to hitting and base-running.

Howard underwent surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon in October, then had a follow-up procedure in February to clear out an infection that had formed around his surgical wound.

Salisbury calls June a “safe, albeit broad, outside estimate” for the slugger’s return to major league action.

Report: Astros extend Justin Verlander for two years, $66 million

Justin Verlander
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The Astros are in agreement with right-hander Justin Verlander on a two-year, $66 million extension, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com was among those to report on Friday. With no money deferred, the $33 million he’ll receive over the next two years will set a record AAV for major-league pitchers; something MLB Network’s Jon Heyman says matters to Verlander, who “cares how his deals affect markets (and fellow players).”

While it’s far from the five-year, $100 million extension teammate Alex Bregman signed with the club on Friday, the deal will give the Astros a bigger window to consider their long-term plans for the ace before he hits free agency again. Prior to Saturday’s agreement, Verlander’s original contract — the hefty seven-year, $180 million arrangement he reached with the Tigers in 2013 — was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2019 season.

It’s difficult to overestimate the value Verlander has provided to the Astros since they acquired him from the Tigers back in 2017. He was named the 2017 ALCS MVP following seven shutout innings in a must-win Game 6 performance and helped the Astros clinch their first franchise World Series title. In 2018, he earned his seventh career All-Star distinction and received consideration for both AL Cy Young and MVP awards after pitching to a 16-9 record in 34 starts with a 2.52 ERA, 1.6 BB/9, 12.2 SO/9 (the product of a career-high 290 strikeouts), and 6.7 fWAR over 214 innings.

The deal has not been confirmed by the team.