PHILADELPHIA -- Chase Utley is expected back in the Phillies' lineup Wednesday, but what about the Big Piece?
Could Ryan Howard be back shortly after the All-Star break?
It looks like it. The Phillies announced on Tuesday that Howard will return to Philadelphia on Wednesday for "functional testing on his left Achilles." If Howard passes those tests, he will begin a rehab assignment with Class A Lakewood on Thursday.
Once a position player begins a rehab assignment, he has 20 days before he must be activated unless there is a setback. So if Howard takes the full 20 days, he could be back no later than July 18, six games following the All-Star break.
Howard has been on the disabled list since the season started after undergoing surgery on the Achilles in October, and suffered a setback because of an infection in the heel in February.
Manager Charlie Manuel spoke to Howard on Monday.
"More than likely, the way things look, [he'll be back] after the All-Star break," Manuel said. "He feels real good. He still says that when he runs he's got a little limp. He says, 'I want to play, and I feel like I can play.' He says, 'I don't know if I'll be where you want me to be or not,' but at the same time, he's got to be able to go play and be able to do some things. He feels like he's getting there. He's very positive about where he's at."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.