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Mon, 27 Feb 2012 12:35 PM EST

The query folk keep asking injured Philadelphia Phillies 1st baseman Ryan Howard is when he’ll come back in the lineup. But Howard declared “I’m not putting a cutoff point on it.”

“I’m just going to listen to my body,” Howard recounted, “and we’ll see where we are.”

The Philadelphia Phillies have claimed they hope to have their cleanup hitter back by early May. But when questioned if May was practical, Howard answered: “We’ll see. Ask me in May.”

Howard took live batting practice for the 1st time since rupturing his left Achilles tendon on the final play of the Phillies’ NL Divisional Series loss to the St. Louis Cardinals last October. Basketball scores

His executive, Charlie Manuel, said he believes Howard is ahead of plan. But Howard asserted: “I feel good about where I am at the moment. I’m not sure what everyone else’s expectations were, but I feel great.”

As inspired as Manuel is by what he’s seen from his 1st baseman so far this spring, the manager added that, “at the same time, I am not prepared to project when he is prepared to play.”

Manuel said any affirmation about Howard being back by Opening Day is “still a reach.”

The Philadelphia Phillies haven’t spelled out what Howard’s advancement will be in spring training, and Howard said he’s just playing that by ear. NFL odds

“Right now, I most likely won’t be taking part in games this spring,” he claimed. “But we’ll see.”

Manuel stated that he will take a look at Ty Wigginton, Laynce Nix, John Mayberry Jr. and Jim Thome at 1st base before deciding the way in which the Phillies will fill the position in Howard’s absence. Mayberry played 18 games initially for the Phillies last season, but he’s also competing for the left-field job in the wake of Raul Ibanez’s exit as a free agent. So Manuel announced Mayberry will “likely play more in left field than anywhere.”

Howard is looking forward to hanging out with Thome on the bench and in the clubhouse.

“First and foremost, he’s a good guy, a 1st class person,” Howard said. “And it’s funny mainly because when I heard we signed him back, I was like, man, everything comes around full circle. I was excited for him mainly because he’s a 1st-ballot Hall of Famer and I’m absolutely going to be picking his brain as fast as he gets back here.

“He’s a wonderful player for a clubhouse, excellent fellow for a team.”

Howard has delivered in the clutch rather frequently for the Phillies, though his numbers have gone down in recent years. The 2006 National League MVP batted .253 with a team-high 33 homers and 116 RBIs last year. But he was just 2 for 19 (.105) with a homer and 6 RBIs in the National League division series versus the St. Louis Cardinals.

From 2006-09, Howard averaged 50 homers and 141 RBIs while hitting .278. He hasn’t matched that production since signing a $125 million, 5-year agreement extension in April 2010. Howard has averaged 32 homers and 112 RBIs with a .265 average during the last 2 seasons.

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