It was on the last play of their 2011 season that the Phillies realized they'd probably play a lot of their 2012 season without first baseman Ryan Howard. Howard suffered an Achilles injury, and etc. you already know all of those details. Howard's recovery has been ... gradual, hitting some speed bumps, but lately he's been participating in simulated games, and the next step is getting ever closer:
Ryan Howard may begin a rehab assignment June 28, Ruben Amaro Jr. says.— Matt Gelb (@magelb) June 26, 2012
Howard's rehab assignment would not be a quick one, as he's got a ways to go before he's in game shape. But beginning shortly would put Howard on track to join the Phillies just after the All-Star break, which wouldn't be a moment too soon.
The Phillies are presently tied for last place in the NL East, and the player who's made the most starts at first base is Ty Wigginton. The open arms that will welcome Howard back could not be any more open.