The Philadelphia Phillies have finally activated Ryan Howard from the disabled list, the first action the slugging first baseman has had since tearing his Achilles tendon in the final playoff game of 2011.
Howard doubled to deep center field in his first at-bat and got a rousing ovation from the fans. He looked relatively slow running to first base and rounding the bag to second, but he had been medically cleared to play. Howard finished the night 2-for-4 with a single and a double.
He was impressive in seven minor league games, going 10-for-20 with a home run. Howard was initially expected to return as early as May but he suffered a setback in spring training, developing an infection that slowed down his rehab.
To make room for Howard, infielder Hector Luna was sent down to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Luna had batted .246 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in 26 games.
The Phillies probably won’t be able to play Howard every day as he is still recovering but it will make a huge difference to the team with both Howard and Chase Utley in the lineup batting 3-4. The Phillies have gone just 1-7 since Utley returned to the lineup a week ago but that has been more due to the shoddy play of the bullpen than the fact that Utley isn’t producing.
The Phillies have been playing Ty Wigginton, Jim Thome, Laynce Nix, Hector Luna, and John Mayberry, Jr. at first base with Howard out. Wigginton has played like the good utility player but borderline starter that he is. Thome had a one-week hot stretch before he was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. Nix did very well in April but has been on the disabled list ever since. Luna started well but regressed badly and Mayberry has been awful this season, showing little to no patience at the plate.
Hopefully Howard’s return can boost the Phillies’ offense, but it is probably too late at this point considering the Phillies are double-digit games out of first place in the NL East.