John Finger of CSNPhilly.com reports that first baseman Ryan Howard has been cleared to begin a minor league rehab assignment on Thursday night at Single-A Lakewood. He’ll merely DH at first and may have to ease into full games. But it’s a significant step in what has been a long rehab process.
Howard was placed on the disabled list at the end of spring training with a ruptured Achilles tendon that he suffered while making the final out of the Phils’ 2011 NLDS loss to the Cardinals. He’ll likely spend more than three weeks playing games in the minors before returning to the big-league lineup shortly after the All-Star break. Assuming there are no setbacks.
The 32-year-old first baseman batted .253/.346/.488 with 33 home runs and 116 RBI in 644 plate appearances last season. He’s under contract with the Phillies through the 2016 campaign at a whopping $115 million.
Baseball is a young man’s game. Whereas, a few short years ago, teams went into battle with a lot of guys with ten or twelve years of experience under their belt, these days such veterans are a dying breed. Whether you chalk it up to teams favoring youth because youth is less expensive, the game simply favoring younger, more athletic players, the decline in PED use among ballplayers or some combination of all three, the fact is that it’s better to be 23 in Major League Baseball these days than 33.
Turner is 33 — he turns 34 in November — yet he remains at or near the top of his game. It’s been a shorter season than usual for him due to an injury that cost him all of April and part of May, but his production when healthy remains at a near-MVP level. He’s hitting .318/.413/.525 on the year, and his return coincided with the Dodgers shaking off their early-season doldrums. Now, with his help, they are on the verge of yet another NL West title.
Not only that, but he’s doing that while holding down a second job!