Howard cleared by doctor to begin exercises

Phils slugger likely to begin baseball activities in six weeks
By Todd Zolecki / | 01/05/12 6:22 PM EST

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. sounded relatively chipper early Thursday evening.
He had reason to be. He said he received encouraging news on some players that had offseason surgeries, most notably Ryan Howard.
Howard had surgery in October to repair a ruptured left Achilles. Foot and ankle specialist Mark Myerson examined Howard earlier Thursday and cleared him to begin some strength and power exercises. Howard also will start jogging underwater, and is likely to begin baseball activities within six weeks. He will start by fielding ground balls before progressing to hitting.

That timetable places Howard's baseball activities around the middle of February, which is the beginning of Spring Training.
Is there any chance Howard could be ready by Opening Day?
"I can't even speculate," Amaro said. "All I know is that it's nice to know that at some point in Spring Training, that he'll start doing some light baseball activities. I think it is good news."
Phillies physician Michael Ciccotti examined right-hander Jose Contreras on Thursday, and cleared him to begin a throwing program Friday. Contreras had surgery late last year to repair his right elbow.
"I don't have any timetable on him," Amaro said. "We'll probably know more within the next month."
But even with some uncertainty surrounding Contreras, Amaro said he is not looking to find another bullpen arm.
"If there's somebody that falls in our lap, yeah," Amaro said. "But it's a good enough report [for Contreras] that we think he's going to be ready. If not at Opening Day, then hopefully close to it."
Placido Polanco (sports hernia surgery) told Amaro recently he feels great and believes he will be ready to go 100 percent by Spring Training. Hunter Pence (sports hernia surgery) also is expected to be ready for Spring Training. Cole Hamels (surgery to remove loose bodies in left elbow) is throwing and feels fine.