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.

Starling Marte carted off field after outfield collision

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Pirates center fielder Starling Marte was carted off the field during the eighth inning of Friday’s contest against the Giants. Marte was racing in to field a fly ball from Yangervis Solarte when he collided at full speed with shortstop Erik González. The two were knocked down by the impact and quickly attended to by the Pirates’ staff, who helped Marte sit up on a cart and removed him from the game.

The extent of either player’s injuries, if any, have yet to be revealed. Following the incident, both Marte and González were officially removed from the lineup, with JB Shuck shifting from left to center field, Jung Ho Kang moving over to shortstop, Colin Moran covering third base, and Jason Martin in the left field corner.

The Pirates currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the ninth.