Ryan Howard homers in rehab game, nears Phillies return

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It’s unclear if Ryan Howard’s surgically repaired Achilles’ tendon is ready to handle playing in the majors again, but his bat sure looks fine.

Howard went 2-for-3 with a homer and four RBIs in a minor-league rehab game yesterday at Triple-A and is now 8-for-17 (.471) with a homer, two doubles, and nine RBIs in six rehab games overall.

His homer yesterday came off former big leaguer John Maine, who’s now pitching at Triple-A for the Yankees, and John Finger of CSNPhilly.com reports that Howard also played seven innings defensively at first base without any issues.

For now he’s scheduled to play Triple-A games Thursday and Friday, at which point Howard could be cleared to come off the disabled list and rejoin the Phillies for the first time since tearing his Achilles’ tendon making the final out of last year’s NLDS.

Pirates pitcher Steven Brault sang the National Anthem last night

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Pittsburgh Pirates swingman Steven Brault has a 4.38 ERA in 19 games this year. He also has a music degree and is a professional singer on the side of his baseball gig. He didn’t get into last night’s game against the Brewers as a pitcher, but he did get to use his singing skills.

Specifically, Brault got to sing the National Anthem. And he did an OK job of it too. He’s not Whitney Houston or anything, but he did what all Anthem singers who are not as gifted as Whitney Houston was should do: he kept it straight and businesslike, avoiding unnecessary flourishes:

It’s march, dang it, not a ballad, and it should be treated as such. Unless of course you’re Whitney Houston.