CINCINNATI -- It's never a guarantee that a player will be the same when coming back from surgery.

It's certainly a thought that ran through Philadelphia when it was discovered All-Star first baseman Ryan Howard would miss a majority of the season with an Achilles' tendon injury.

Howard was activated in early July and has not been back in the starting lineup for nearly two full months. In some respects, Howard feels better than ever.

"As far as years past, from a natural standpoint to where I don't have to think about it, [I feel better]," he said. "I don't have to think about it."

But the 32-year-old slugger knows there is progress to be made to get back to his All-Star form of two years ago.

"I know that my left leg, the calf and the forefoot and the surrounding muscles aren't all there yet," said Howard, who assured his Achilles is non-factor. "Having to kind of break up the scar tissue that's back here from the wound to continue to get the full range of motion back in the foot, and having to build up the strength as you try to continue to get that full range of motion, those are going to be the things I'm going to look to attack this offseason."

Manager Charlie Manuel said Howard has made a speedy recovery and notices only a few things holding him back.

"I know he has trouble using his back side," Manuel said. "I'm not making an excuse for him. It's hard for me to make a judgment on the fact that at times he doesn't use his back side, because at times he didn't do it before he hurt his Achilles."

Both Manuel and Howard were confident that a full offseason recovery was in store after this year and that Howard would be back in the swing of things by 2013.

Tuesday was Howard's 50th game in 2012, and he entered the day batting .237 with 10 homers and 36 RBIs.

Young hurlers getting feet wet at big league level

CINCINNATI -- Monday was a day of firsts for the Phillies' pitching staff.

Starter Tyler Cloyd earned the first win of his Major League career, reliever Justin De Fratus made his first appearance of 2012 and rookie Phillippe Aumont chalked up the first save of his career.

It was a pitching cycle that resembled one the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs may have watched take the diamond just a month ago.

"We kind of joked about that," Cloyd said. "There's a lot of us IronPigs here. It's fun to come up with the same guys."

Aumont was the first IronPig to make it this season after being recalled Aug. 21, followed shortly by Cloyd on the 29th and De Fratus on Sunday.

Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said he was pleased with the young arms in the bullpen that quieted the winningest team in baseball.

"Of course, he hadn't pitched much this year, and his velocity last year was a lot better," Manuel said of De Fratus. "But evidently he'd been pitching good in Lehigh Valley."

De Fratus was 0-1 with a 2.49 ERA in 17 appearances for Lehigh Valley, and got to put his arm on display Monday in Cincinnati, tossing one 13-pitch inning, with his only blemish a walk to Reds pinch-hitter Denis Phipps.

Aumont came on as the closer instead of Jonathan Papelbon, whom the Phillies rested after using him four of six days.

"There's definitely a little more adrenaline," Aumont said. "Not that I don't have any, I've got plenty of adrenaline up here. It was definitely fun out there."

If needed, Aumont could provide an alternative to Papelbon, who has pitched in 50 or more games for the seventh straight season and has appeared in the 10th most games (435) among active relievers since 2006.

"[Aumont] has got big time stuff," Manuel said. "He's big, he's strong, he's durable and his ball sneaks up on you. He throws in the mid-90's, which is pretty good."

Orr back up, will provide depth as utility infielder

CINCINNATI -- The Phillies purchased the contract of infielder Pete Orr from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday.

Orr was outrighted off the Phils' 40-man roster earlier this season after hitting .286 with 12 hits and five RBIs in 23 games, and manager Charlie Manuel said Orr will provide depth as a utility infielder.

"We thought we were going to need another infielder," Manuel said.

The 33-year-old left-handed hitter may likely be more support for Placido Polanco, who is no longer an everyday player in Philadelphia.

"He's not available," Manuel said regarding Polanco. "He can play if he had to, in an emergency."

Polanco, 36, has struggled to stay healthy and was hitting .258 with two homers and 19 RBIs entering Tuesday.

Worth noting

• Since Charlie Manuel's tenure began in 2005, the Phillies have posted the National League's best record in games after the All-Star break at 341-217 (.611) entering Tuesday.