Howard could return to Phils lineup this weekend
By HOWIE RUMBERG
NEW YORK (AP) Ryan Howard is making progress in his rehabilitation for an Achillies injury, and the star first baseman could make his return to the major leagues this weekend.
"He's getting close," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Thursday before Philadelphia faced the New York Mets.
Howard has participated in six rehab games with Class A Lakewood and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He is scheduled to play back-to-back games in the field for the first time beginning Thursday night.
Sidelined since being injured making the final out of the Phillies' season last year - Game 5 of the NL division series against St. Louis - Howard is hitting .471 (8 for 17) with two doubles, a homer and nine RBIs in the minors.
Amaro said Howard will be evaluated by doctors after he plays Thursday before making any decisions.
The All-Star break shouldn't be a detriment to Howard finding his timing at the plate if he plays in the Phillies' series against Atlanta then rests for four days.
"If he plays this weekend (for the Phillies), it may not be the worst thing for him to get some time off. You just don't know how he'll react and what kind of adrenaline there will be. We'll take it one day at a time with him."
Also, Amaro says Roy Halladay is going to have another bullpen sessions Saturday after throwing 56 pitches Tuesday.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner has been out since May 28 because of a strained latissimus dorsi muscle on the right side of his back.
Halladay will likely need "some type of rehab," Amaro said. It could be a simulated game rather than pitching for a minor league club, though.
Laynce Nix, meanwhile, made progress in his recovery from a left calf strain. Out since May 11, Nix had a setback two weeks ago but is feeling better, Amaro said. He should go out on a rehab assignment soon after the break.
Updated July 5, 2012