Phillies don’t expect Ryan Howard back before July

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There’s been a lot more secrecy than firm timetables when it comes to Ryan Howard’s recovery from a torn Achilles’ tendon, but today Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. finally offered some news on the first baseman’s status.

Asked by Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com if Howard would be able to return at some point in July, the GM replied: “I don’t believe so. I don’t think so.”

Then, when asked if Howard would return before the All-Star break in mid-July, he said: “I don’t know.”

You know, just in case the Roy Halladay news wasn’t enough to ruin Phillies fans’ week.

Howard tore his Achilles’ tendon making the final out of the Phillies’ season in October and initially there was some hope that he’d be back in the lineup in May, but an infection ruined those plans and slowed his rehab timetable considerably. Seven months later he’s still building up strength in his atrophied calf.

Howard is in the first season of a five-year, $125 million contract extension.

Report: Pirates to convert JB Shuck into two-way player

JB Shuck
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Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.

Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.

Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.

Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.