Aug 092010

August 9 Philadelphia Inquirer

“Since Ryan Howard went on the disabled list, the Phillies are 5-1 without three of their best hitters – Howard, Chase Utley, and Shane Victorino.

Imagine what a healthy assortment of players could do.

“We’re going to have some of the best September call-ups,” backup catcher Brian Schneider quipped.

This is true. The Phillies hope to have Victorino, Howard and Utley healthy before Sept. 1, when the rosters expand. Victorino (left abdominal strain) is the closest to returning; he will begin a rehab assignment Tuesday for triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Howard is off crutches and the swelling in his sprained left ankle has diminished. But he was still walking with a noticeable limp through the clubhouse Sunday and some swelling remains.

“I’m walking,” Howard said. “It’s a miracle.”

Howard can come off the DL on Aug. 17. The first baseman said he is still hoping to return then but it could very well take longer. Howard has done little in the way of baseball activities. He was injured Aug. 1.

“I don’t know yet,” Howard said when asked of a possible return. “Just taking it day by day.”

Victorino said the plan is for him to play five innings Tuesday, seven innings Wednesday, and nine innings Thursday for the IronPigs. Should all go well, he could be activated Friday for the series opener against the Mets in New York.

Victorino is eligible to return from the disabled list Thursday.

If Victorino returns Friday, the Phillies will face an interesting decision in their outfield. Top prospect Domonic Brown has started seven of 11 games since being called up when Victorino was injured. But that playing time would almost certainly go down once the Phillies’ normal outfield is entirely healthy.

It’s possible the Phillies could send Brown back to triple-A Lehigh Valley on Friday, have him play every day there for two-and-a-half weeks, then recall him on Sept. 1 when the rosters expand.

Or they could find a way to keep him on the 25-man roster while still giving him enough playing time.”

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