MIAMI -- Ryan Howard, who is recovering from left knee surgery, has seen some action in simulated games in Clearwater, Fla., and the Florida instructional league games will begin on Tuesday.
Ryne Sandberg is expecting good things from Howard next season. He just wants him to be healthy and ready to play first.
"Maybe, in some ways, he'll be disappointed in this season," Sandberg said. "It all adds up to a year where he'll be ready to go. It'll all start right now with the games in Florida along with his workout program the whole winter. Him being healthy will allow him to get into baseball shape. I look for him to come back and be a big guy right in the middle of the lineup. … I know I'll have a conversation with him about continuing to have a good work ethic and get the training in he needs to this winter."
Howard has not been healthy each of the past two seasons, so being healthy is the first step. But even when he has been healthy, Howard's production has taken a dip. Sandberg will stress pregame preparation with the veteran, as he does with other players.
"From what I've gathered, I think … he can be better prepared to face somebody to start a baseball game," he said. "Whether it's through the hitting coaches, having conversations, going over scouting reports, we have plenty of video, whatever it might be, I think he can utilize that."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.