CLEARWATER, Fla. Ryan Howard does not know when he will be out of the walking boot that he has worn for more than two weeks, nor does he know when hell be ready for regular-season game action.
But he does believe he is making progress after having a procedure to repair an open wound and clean out an infection on the back of his left ankle 16 days ago.
The smile on his face as he addressed reporters for the first time since the procedure Wednesday offered some evidence of that. So did his playing some light catch with the boot on, of course.
Right now, were just waiting for the skin to heal up, Howard said. Thats really what the purpose of the boot is. I think people see me in the boot think its a lot worse than what it really is. Right now, were just trying to protect the skin and protect the wound and let it heal up. Once it heals up then Ill be out of the boot.
Howard had surgery to repair a torn left Achilles tendon in October. His rehab was going well and he had been on the field doing baseball activities when he developed an open wound and infection after a suture did not dissolve properly. Howards Achilles is intact, and Phillies officials say that is good news. He still has a small open wound on the back of his ankle.
The wound is healing, but according to Scott Sheridan, the Phils head athletic trainer, the skin in that area is notorious for healing slowly. Once the skin heals completely and he sheds the walking boot, Howard believes he will be able to jump right back into his rehab without going back to square 1.
I doubt it, said Howard when asked if he had to start his rehab over. From where I had to start before I had a bum Achilles. We had to strengthen that up. But my Achilles each day, even though I'm not doing some of the stuff I was doing before, is still getting stronger just through rest. My goal and hope is once I get out of the boot we can hit the ground running and pick up where we left off.
Each day of rest, it continues to heal and get stronger. We'll try to do what we can to put ourselves in the best position so once this boot comes off we can hit the ground running.
Howard has been cleared to ride a stationary bike. The infection has cleared up, but he continues to take antibiotics to prevent a recurrence.
The big question remains: When will Howard be ready for regular-season action? At the start of camp, manager Charlie Manuel was so impressed with Howards progress that he said he believed the slugger could be back sometime in late April. Upper-level management preached caution while saying Howard could be back sometime in May. Now, it seems more likely that Howard wont be ready until sometime in June.
Howard wont set a timetable. Everything depends on how he progresses. For now, the skin has to heal and he has to get out of the boot.
I dont know. It all depends on how the skin heals and then as far as the progression of trying to pick back up where I was, Howard said. Im going to try to stay optimistic and see what happens, but like Ive said before, theres really no time limit on it. Once its 100 percent well go from there.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at email@example.com.