More than eight months after crumpling to the ground with an Achilles injury as the Philadelphia Phillies' season crumbled in the playoffs, Ryan Howard was back on the field Thursday night in the same Jersey shore stadium where he starred as a minor-leaguer.
The 32-year-old former NL MVP began a rehab assignment with the Class A Lakewood Blue Claws, where he played in 2002. Howard, a three-time All-Star, was the designated hitter at FirstEnergy Park as the BlueClaws took on the West Virginia Power. He singled in two of his first three at-bats.
It was his first game since rupturing an Achilles tendon after grounding to second for the final out of Game 5 of the National League Division Series. How well — and quickly — Howard progresses through rehab, along with how well Chase Utley does in his own return from injury may well determine whether the Phils are buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.
Turns out he didn't touch 'em all
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The Helena (Mont.) Brewers' Raul Mondesi Jr., son of the former Dodger, had a tying two-run homer wiped out in the bottom of the 10th inning because he missed home plate at the end of his home-run trot. Missoula catcher Michael Perez alertly appealed the play, and Mondesi was called out. So instead of a 2-2 tie, Helena became a 2-1 loser as Mondesi's two-out blast was reduced to an RBI triple. "It's a terrible way to lose a ballgame, but the guys learned a good lesson," Brewers Manager Jeff Isom told the Helena Independent Record. "From now on, make sure you jump on the plate on a homer."
Red Sox outfielders on the mend
Jacoby Ellsbury and Scott Podsednik are taking their first steps in returning to the Red Sox. Ellsbury and Podsednik will begin rehab assignments in the Red Sox minor-league system on Friday. Ellsbury will be playing with the Red Sox rookie league club in the Gulf Coast League, while Podsednik will be with Triple-A Pawtucket. Ellsbury will join Carl Crawford in the rookie league.
■ Former Mets outfielder Lenny Dykstra has agreed to plead guilty to three counts stemming from a bankruptcy fraud case in Los Angeles, federal prosecutors said Thursday. Dykstra will plead guilty to one count each of bankruptcy fraud, concealment of assets and money laundering, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office. Dykstra faces up to 20 years in federal prison. Dykstra is currently serving a three-year prison sentence after pleading no contest to grand theft auto and providing a false financial statement.
■ Reds prospect Tony Cingrani took a no-hitter into the seventh and struck out a career-high 15 in Double-A Pensacola's 5-0 win over Jackson on Wednesday. The 22-year-old left-hander and former Rice closer was taken by the Reds in the third round of the 2011 draft.
■ The Phillies shook up their bullpen, designating right-hander Chad Qualls for assignment and calling up righty Brian Sanches and lefty Jeremy Horst from Triple-A Lehigh Valley.