Five-to-six months is being optimistic. That’s the timetable Ruben Amaro Jr. put on injured first baseman Ryan Howard earlier in the week – and to return to the Ryan Howard we’re used to seeing. No limitations, no issues. Five months from the day he went under the knife would be March 12; or right smack in the middle of Spring Training.
Modern science seems to have sped the healing process on certain injuries, and this very well could be one of them. Matt Gelb over at the Philadelphia Inquirer checked into the latest Achillies tears and found that the time obviously varies by each individual, but that no play in the last decade he found came back to the team in less than six months. Kevin Frandsen, formerly of the San Francisco Giants and the Phillies minor league system, returned to action in six months and four days in 2008.
This leads to a question: if Howard is to miss extended time in the regular season, who’s on first?
In 2011 when Howard sat out, it was John Mayberry Jr. 10 times and Ross Gload seven. Neither is the finest of candidates at first base, however, Mayberry is quite athletic and would probably present adequate defense if given the job longer term. Gload was playing on one hip this last season, plus it’s unknown whether or not he would return to the Phils in 2012, and he’s just a bench guy anyway.
So it comes down to whether or not the Phillies look in-house or reach outside the organization.
If they stay in, the obvious choice is Mayberry, but is it the right one. Just to the right of Ryan Howard could be the answer: Chase Utley. The second baseman has played 26 games at first base in his career, but none since 2008.
Why would you move a very good defensive second baseman to first? Well, to save his body for one. Utley’s knees get a breather and allow him to forgo the rigors of playing up the middle everyday, at least for a little while.
Mayberry can continue on in left field and the Phillies would be free to bring in a guy who could play multiple positions. Maybe moving Polanco to second and bringing in a guy like Wilson Betemit (as Corey and I talk about in PN TV). He’s a super utility guy who can play several positions and is the sort of bench threat the Phillies need. A guy with some power, can play the infield, and can certainly pinch hit.