After four full seasons covering this team, I consider myself to be pretty adept at interpreting Phillies, and the sense I get today is that there is a very real chance that Ryan Howard is in the lineup on Friday against Tim Hudson and the Braves. Howard thinks he is ready, according to Charlie Manuel and Ruben Amaro Jr.
The plan calls for him to play nine innings at first base today and nine innings tomorrow. So why not just let him play nine innings for the Phillies? It sounds like the big question is whether Howard can field his position well enough. If the Phillies decide that he can, and the doctor gives the green light, I'd bet you see him hitting cleanup tomorrow.
That Hudson is scheduled to be on the mound should help Howard's cause. In 63 career plate appearances against Hudson, he has a .327/.429/.712 batting line with six home runs, two doubles and 10 walks against eight strikeouts. The only pitcher who has surrendered more homers to Howard? Chris Volstad, who has allowed eight.