Ryan Howard took his first batting practice since rupturing his Achilles tendon on the final out of the final game of the 2011 playoffs, according to Jim Salisbury of Comcast Sports Network. Of course, he is still quite far away from actually picking up a bat in a real game, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.
However, what will happen to the Phillies lineup without Howard in the middle of it? He has protected Chase Utley in the lineup for the past several years, and while some people have been disappointed by his performance, he has still not hit below 30 home runs in a full season or driven in fewer than 100 runs. He does strike out far too much, but he still has been a presence in the middle of the Phillies lineup.
How will the Phillies fill that gap? They seem to have an interesting type of platoon situation that will probably develop. After bringing in right-handed Ty Wigginton and left-handed Jim Thome this past winter, it seems as if that is how first base will play out.
This could be changed, however, with a very strong spring from Domonic Brown. If he is able to prove that he deserves playing time in left field, John Mayberry Jr. could also factor into that first base platoon. He played there a little bit last season, and he was definitely a serviceable option.
While the Phillies wait for Howard to return, first base will probably not be quite as productive. However, these options definitely should be solid and provide the Phillies' lineup with enough support to stay competitive until he is able to pick up a bat in an actual game.
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