Phillies slugger Ryan Howard's late start to spring training is still an ongoing issue, as the three-time All-Star is out indefinitely after having a procedure to remove stitches from an infected area on his left foot.
According to multiple media reports, the new wound must heal before Howard can participate in spring training. Howard had surgery in October on his left Achilles tendon, and it was reported last week that Howard had developed a seroma from the stitches. However, Howard's Achilles itself is intact, according to Phillies trainer Scott Sheridan.
Howard, 32, hit .253 for the Phillies last year with 33 home runs and 116 RBI. He hit .105 in the NL Division Series against the Cardinals, including a home run and six RBI.
Last weekend, Sheridan told MLB.com that Howard's condition is a common result during the rehabilitation process.
While Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said before spring training that he'd be happy to see Howard back on the field in May, Howard wasn't publicly revealing his own goals or timetable for returning.
"We'll see -- ask me in May," Howard said. "Obviously, the goal is to want to get out there as soon as possible, but at the same time, with this, I'm just listening to my body and it will let me know when it's ready."
But Howard is far from the only Phillies player in camp whose health is an issue. A year ago, All-Star second baseman Chase Utley was held back from playing in Grapefruit League games while he battled right knee tendinitis.
Utley missed the first seven weeks of the 2011 season, and even when he returned, he lacked the power stroke that has made him a middle-of-the-order, impact bat. Utley hit a career-low 11 home runs in 103 games.
But in order to regain the strength in his legs but also not put too much stress one them, Utley changed his workout program over the winter.
"It feels significantly better," Utley said. "Last year it was very uncomfortable, especially the first week. Right now, I think I'm in a good place. The goal for me is to kind of stay in the same place and improve in small increments and not try to irritate it to the point where I'd have to slow down."
If the Phillies plan on making a trip to the World Series for the third time in the last five seasons, the health of Howard and Utley is crucial.