Howard out indefinitely after setback

Posted: March 01, 2012

CLEARWATER, Fla. - What the Phillies originally termed a "routine" trip to the doctor for Ryan Howard resulted in another surgical procedure.

The first baseman has suffered a setback in his recovery from Achilles tendon surgery and will be sidelined indefinitely after a "small procedure" Monday to clean an infection from his surgical wound, Phillies head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan said Wednesday.

During that procedure, no structural damage to the repaired Achilles was found.

Foot specialist Mark Myerson removed the internal sutures that originally held together Howard's rebuilt left Achilles, Sheridan said. Howard is on antibiotics and flew from Baltimore to Florida on Wednesday night. Myerson is the surgeon who operated on Howard's ruptured Achilles in October.

Sheridan could not determine when Howard will resume his rehabilitation program. When asked whether the delay would be days or weeks, Sheridan said, "I truly don't know that answer." He said the staff would work with Myerson to develop a plan.

The Phillies were optimistic about this revelation: While Myerson was forced to reopen Howard's wound, he found the structure of the Achilles tendon remained intact.

"That was our biggest concern going into this," Sheridan said. "That was one of the things during the procedure he confirmed; the Achilles tendon is intact and not compromised. That's great news."

But now this new wound must heal. Sheridan said the team would be cautious this time to avoid any further problems. The area where the procedure was done is a notoriously difficult place for a wound to mend.

"It's common for the skin behind the Achilles to have trouble healing," Sheridan said. "I wouldn't say it's common for the infection to occur. I do know it's a tough area to heal. It doesn't have a very good blood supply."

Initially, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Saturday that Howard was scheduled for a routine checkup with Myerson because the team wanted to keep the specialist involved with the recovery process.

But later that day, manager Charlie Manuel said Howard had suffered "a little setback" because the sutures designed to dissolve had caused an infection. Team officials bristled at that proclamation and Amaro later clarified that Howard had developed a seroma, a type of fluid-filled cyst, near his wound.

On Wednesday, Sheridan once again refuted the notion that this was a setback to Howard's recovery, despite his being inactive since Saturday.

"I don't prefer to use that word," Sheridan said. "I know that's the word everyone wants to use. We never established a particular timetable for him. Right now, it's one of those things that happens in the rehab process. We just have to move forward from it."

The Phillies, however, had provided a timetable, publicly targeting a return for their 32-year-old first baseman in May. That was considered optimistic by some in the organization. Sheridan said he never set a timetable.

Semantics aside, Howard has been sidelined for four days and will miss more time after this procedure. The first baseman had begun basic running and cutting exercises, participated in batting practice, and taken ground balls. He was termed "ahead of schedule" by Manuel when camp began and had started doing more range-of-motion activities.

"It seems like every time I say something [good], something happens to the guy," Manuel said. "I'm better off not saying anything. I've always said it was a reach for him to open the season.

"They are trying to get the swelling out of his leg. When they do, we'll go from there."

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