But he played catch Wednesday morning at Bright House Field.
That's progress, right?
"It's exhilarating," he joked.
Howard has been in a walking boot since he had surgery Feb. 27 to remove sutures near his left Achilles, which had caused an infection. Howard, who remains on antibiotics, needs the skin to heal before he removes the boot and resumes workouts with the team. He could not say Wednesday when that might happen.
"I think people see me in the boot they think it's a lot worse than what it really is," Howard said.
Howard originally had his ruptured Achilles repaired Oct. 12, and the Phils had hoped in a best-case scenario he could be back in the lineup before June. An optimistic Howard would not say if May remains a possibility, although it certainly seems less likely than before. In the meantime, the Phillies hope John Mayberry Jr., Ty Wigginton, Jim Thome and Laynce Nix can handle first base.
"It all depends on how the skin heals and then the progression of trying to pick back up where I was," Howard said of his return. "I'm going to try to stay optimistic and see what happens, but like I've said before, there's really no time limit on it. Once it's 100 percent, we'll go from there.
"My Achilles is fine. My Achilles wasn't touched at all [Feb. 27]. It was just basically the wound. There were a couple little holes or whatnot, and now they're pretty much filled in. Now we're just waiting for that skin and all that stuff [to heal]."
Howard said it is incorrect to say he needs to start from scratch in his recovery because he has been sidelined since his last workout with the team Feb. 25, when he took batting practice with teammates at Carpenter Complex.
"I doubt it. I really doubt it," he said. "From where I had to start before, I had a bum Achilles. We had to strengthen that up. But my Achilles each day, even though I'm not doing some of the stuff I was doing before, is still getting stronger just through rest. My goal and hope is once I get out of the boot, we can hit the ground running and pick up where we left off."
Another assumption is his return is pushed back an additional day every day he remains in the boot. He said he hopes that isn't the case.
"I think that the thing was, my Achilles was weak," he said. "We did some things to make my Achilles stronger. Each day of rest, it continues to heal and get stronger."
Howard has been cleared to begin some modified workouts while he remains in the boot. That includes riding a stationary bike, some leg motion workouts and playing catch.
"You'll be seeing more of me," he said.
He had been in Clearwater since Feb. 29, but had made only brief appearances to get his wound checked out.
"I guess it was like a 'Where's Waldo?' type deal," he joked. "People didn't know if I was in Philly. People didn't know if I was here. I was everywhere. Stealth. ... I've just tried to stay positive through the entire thing. These kinds of things happen. The only thing you can do is stay positive. If you start to get down on yourself, it's not going to help the situation either way. I'm just looking at it as a positive, trying to keep it on the up and up."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less