Ryan Howard is “very optimistic” he’ll begin rehab assignment in the next week

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Chase Utley may soon have some familiar company in the minors.

According to Jake Kaplan of MLB.com, Ryan Howard said in a podcast on his website that he is “very optimistic” he’ll begin a minor league rehab assignment “in the next week or so.” I may have buried the lede here, as the bigger news might be that Ryan Howard has a podcast.

Anyway, Howard has been rehabbing his surgically-repaired left Achilles tendon in simulated games in Clearwater. He recently began running the bases and playing the field. He’ll need to feel comfortable with both before being cleared for competitive game situations.

Position players are given a 20-day rehab window in the minors and Howard figures to need most or all of it. Assuming he can get into a game by next weekend, that would put him on track to rejoin the Phillies shortly after the All-Star break.

Howard, who is in the first year of a five-year, $125 million contract extension, batted .253/.346/.488 with 33 home runs, 116 RBI and an .835 OPS last season. The Phillies have combined to bat .265/.325/.425 with 10 homers and a .751 OPS from the first base position this year.

Phillies place Jay Bruce on the IL, recall Nick Williams

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The Phillies have placed outfielder Jay Bruce on the 10-day injured list with a right oblique strain. He sustained the injury during a plate appearance in the third inning of last night’s game against the Dodgers. The team expects Bruce to miss at least three weeks.

With Bruce gone so too goes his power — he has 24 homers on the year — and they will try to replace some of it with Nick Williams. Williams has struggled at the big league level but is hitting .345/.403/.628 with six home runs in 28 games at Triple-A this year.