MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. --At first, there was optimism. On Sunday, Ryan Howard left Nationals Park on crutches with a sprained left ankle but both Howard and Charlie Manuel said going on the disabled list was unlikely.
One night took care of that.
Howard woke up Monday morning in Florida to a great deal of swelling, so much that when Howard and Phillies athletic trainer Scott Sheridan tried to do work on Howard's ankle at Sun Life Stadium during the team's off day. The swelling was so bad, Sheridan stopped. He sent Howard back to Philadelphia for an exam by team physician Michael Ciccotti on Tuesday.
It revealed exactly what the Phillies had feared: Howard has a serious enough sprain that will require a trip to the disabled list.
Incredibly, Howard is the 15th Phillies player to go on the disabled list. His injury means the entire opening day infield has gone to the DL at one point during the 2010 season. Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez are the lone regulars to not require the disabled list.
The Phillies have recalled outfielder John Mayberry Jr. from triple-A Lehigh Valley. He will be available for Wednesday's game.
Howard is eligible to return Aug. 17. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Howard does not have a high ankle sprain, like the one that kept Jimmy Rollins out for three weeks in 2008.
"We're hopeful he'll be back in two weeks," Amaro said. "It may be longer than that. We're not sure. It depends on how quickly he heals."
The two sprained ligaments are on the lateral, or outside part of Howard's ankle. It is not a severe sprain because ligaments on the inner part of the ankle were not affected.
"That's the positive news," Amaro said. "It could have been much worse."
But it's bad enough. Howard's 81 RBIs lead the National League. His current .292 batting average would be his highest in a season since 2006, when he hit .313.
Without Howard, the Phillies will probably cobble together a platoon at first base, or play whoever is hot. Manuel has his choice between Ross Gload, Cody Ransom and Mayberry, who took grounders at first base on Tuesday with Lehigh Valley. Mayberry has not played first base since 2008, when he was at triple-A Oklahoma in Texas' organization. And it was only four games.
But Amaro said he could be a possibility at first. Mayberry is a righthanded hitter, unlike Andy Tracy and Matt Rizzotti, who are both lefties. The Phillies already have a lefthanded-heavy bench. Ross Gload figures to receive most of the starts at first when a righthander is pitching.
Against lefty Sean West tonight, Cody Ransom starts at first base.