Amaro says Howard surgery went very well

The timetable for Ryan Howard’s return did not change after the first baseman underwent knee surgery Wednesday morning at the Rothman Institute, but the Phillies were optimistic about what team physician Michael Ciccotti found during the arthroscopic procedure.

“It went very well,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “He (cleaned it out). It was not a repair. He (cleaned out) his medial meniscus and it went really well. The arthritic things that we had seen in the MRI were even better when they looked in the scope, so that’s a good sign.”

Amaro said six to eight weeks remains the timetable for Howard’s return to the playing field. The first baseman will begin his rehab program Thursday with team trainer Scott Sheridan.

“When you do the MRIs … they can only give you so much of a picture,” Amaro said. “But after Ciccotti went in there and went in with the scope, it was a little better picture than we thought. I think (Howard) is feeling better about it. We’re feeling better about it. As news goes, this is as good as we can get.”

Although every rehab is different, the template provided by catcher Erik Kratz could lead to Howard returning closer to six weeks than eight weeks. Kratz had a similar procedure performed June 12. Like Howard, the surgery went well, allowing Kratz to start a minor-league rehab assignment less than four weeks after the surgery. It’s possible Kratz is back on the roster for the weekend series against the Chicago White Sox.

Howard had been bothered by left knee inflammation since early May and, after a cortisone injection, continued to play, albeit in significant pain at times. He finally told the Phillies Saturday that the pain had reached the point where he could not play anymore.

Amaro was asked if the news about Howard’s surgery will impact how he views the Phillies’ situation as the trade deadline approaches.

“Probably, because we’ll have him back,” Amaro said. “There’s a reasonable chance we’ll have him back at some point. We’ll see. We still have a lot of question marks about where we’re going to go in the next couple weeks. Right now, the team is making decisions a little harder on me, which is fine and which is good. I’d rather be in this situation than thinking about 2014 right now.”