Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard made his return to game action Wednesday in an extended spring training appearance. Howard has been out since tearing his Achilles tendon on the final play of Philadelphia's season-ending loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in last season's NLDS.
Jim Salisbury of Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia tweeted about Howard's six plate appearances. Veteran second baseman Chase Utley also took at-bats during the game as he recovers from a knee injury. Utley went 3-for-4 in an extended spring training game Monday.
Without Howard or Utley, the Phillies have hovered around .500 for most of the season. The team is currently 28-29 and in last place in the NL East. But Philadelphia is still within striking distance at only five games back of the division-leading Washington Nationals. Howard struggled some last season, hitting only .253, but his 33 home runs and 116 RBI are still missed by the club. Howard is not expected to be back before the All-Star break, according to reports, but there is no public timetable for his return.