Ryan Howard expected to return from disabled list Friday

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UPDATE: Ryan Howard confirmed on his Twitter account that he will rejoin the Phillies on Friday.

Read more details regarding Howard’s return on CSNPhilly.com.

10:30 PM: According to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, Howard is now “likely” to be activated from the disabled list tomorrow to play against the Braves.

5:32 PM: Ruben Amaro and Charlie Manuel spoke to the Philly media today, and the news nugget of note is that tonight might be Ryan Howard’s last rehab game. Or tomorrow night. Point is, Howard’s time in the minors is almost over and he could be in Philly as soon as this weekend. Here’s Ryan Lawrence from the DelCo Times:

Ryan Howard is scheduled to play nine innings at first base at Triple-A Lehigh Valley tonight. There’s a possibility his next game will be in Philadelphia.

Prior to the Phillies game in New York Thursday, manager Charlie Manuel said Howard will be re-evalauted following tonight’s game with the IronPigs. He didn’t rule out a return this weekend for the former MVP.

Amaro added that he thinks Howard is ready, but that they have to see how he does tonight.

It’s worth noting that Howard hasn’t played back-to-back games in the field since beginning his rehab assignment. He will tonight and tomorrow, however.

Offensively speaking, Howard has been fantastic, going 8 for 17 with a homer, two doubles and nine driven in.

Jim Hickey steps down as Cubs’ pitching coach

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The Cubs announced on Tuesday that Jim Hickey has stepped down as the pitching coach due to personal reasons. The club will begin a search for a replacement.

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said in a statement, “Jim Hickey notified us yesterday of his decision to step down as pitching coach and leave the organization for personal reasons. We thank Jim for his season with the Cubs and his positive impact on our pitchers. Jim has our full support and we all wish him well.”

Hickey, 57, spent over a decade as a coach in the Rays organization before joining the Cubs for the past season, reuniting with Joe Maddon. The Cubs’ starting staff ranked 10th among all 30 teams with a 3.84 ERA and the bullpen posted an NL-best 3.35 ERA.