Ryan Howard could be three weeks behind Chase Utley in the parade of injured Phillies stars marching back to the team.
The first baseman will be examined by Phillies doctors Wednesday. If cleared, he will play for single-A Lakewood on Thursday. That would officially begin his minor-league rehab assignment.
Howard, sidelined by a ruptured Achilles and subsequent infection in the surgical wound, would have a maximum of 20 days to spend in the minors. If he plays Thursday, it's reasonable to expect him in uniform when the Phillies begin a six-game homestand July 20 - or even before then.
Charlie Manuel spoke to Howard on Monday and said he expected his slugger to return shortly after the all-star break.