As Phillies spring training gets into full swing (no pun intended, well maybe) another veteran coming off a disappointing, injury-riddled season stepped to the podium and assured everyone that he was fine.
Ryan Howard addressed the masses Thursday, and he was walking without a limp.
"My Achilles is a non-factor," Howard told reporters in Florida. "It was really a non-factor when I came back last year. It was more about building up the muscles in the rest of my leg again. I'm taking this offseason to do that and it feels a lot better."
Howard entered the 2012 season with a myriad of problems, all stemming from his final at-bat of the 2011 season. The hulking slugger was rehabbing after tearing his Achilles, then endured an infection last spring. Howard never fully recovered and when he finally returned to the Phillies' lineup, on July 6, he wasn't himself.
He turned in career-lows in batting average (.219) and slugging percentage (.423), while striking out at an alarming rate. The injury drastically affected his once-majestic swing. Howard isn't worried about the physical part anymore, now it's about fixing his mindset.
"I have to trust myself, trust my ability, and let it fly," Howard said. "I just have to let the inner me come out at the plate and be relaxed."
Many analysts think the Phillies' window of opportunity for winning another World Series has closed. Don't tell that to Ryan Howard.
"There is a window of opportunity, but if you focus on the window closing, then you never let that cool breeze come in. For us, the window closes when the window closes, but right now the window is still open," Howard said.