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.