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.

Kyle Seager is in The Best Shape of His Life

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Kyle Seager had the worst year of his big league career in 2018. He hit .221/.273/.400 (86 OPS+) and saw his home run total decline for the second straight year. In response, Seager has reported back to camp in Peoria . . . in the best shape of his life.

This story about it in the Seattle Times has it all: the poor production and nagging injuries that led to a change of habits in the offseason. A new diet, new exercise routines, a focus on flexibility, the epiphany that an injury was the result of conditioning and, as the payoff, the scene on the first day of workouts when his uniform was too baggy and he had to get a new one.

The proof, of course, will not come from the eating, but in the production.