PHOENIX -- The Phillies are optimistic Ryan Howard will be cleared to begin baseball activities next week.
He suffered a setback in February, when he developed an infection in his left heel following surgery to repair a ruptured left Achilles. The infection required a second surgical procedure, and it has taken a long time to get better.
In fact, the wound has not completely healed. But the Phillies will immobilize Howard over the next week, minimizing his lower-body workouts, to put him in position to begin his comeback.
"It really has improved," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Tuesday at Chase Field. "The wound itself has gotten smaller, and we just want to get it over the hump so he can start his activities down in Clearwater."
Once Howard is in Clearwater, Fla., the Phillies expect him to be able to run, throw, hit and field ground balls.
"Because the Achilles is healed, and all this time waiting for the wound to heal over -- the residual effect is that we're going to try to be aggressive with him when he can start baseball activities," Amaro said.
It basically will be like the beginning of Spring Training for Howard, although Amaro said he does not know if that means Howard will need a full six weeks to get ready. It could be less than that.
"We'll see when he starts what he's able to do, what he's not able to do," Amaro said.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.