CLEARWATER, Fla. — Kevin Frandsen watched Ryan Howard's lengthy news conference on TV and his ears perked up. Howard, four months into his recovery from a torn Achilles tendon, was asked if he had spoken to any athletes who also suffered the injury.
"Athletes? Not too, too many," Howard said. "It was more everyday people I ran into."
Frandsen laughed. "I was like, 'Hey! We talked about it.'"
Frandsen, an infielder in Phillies camp on a minor-league deal, is among a select group of baseball players in the past decade who had suffered a ruptured Achilles. Our research this winter found eight examples in the last 10 years. Coincidentally, three of the nine (counting Howard) reside in the Phillies' clubhouse this spring.
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Frandsen tore his four springs ago while running the bases. He was going to start at second or third base for the San Francisco Giants. He had some minor tendinitis in the week before, but was cleared by doctors to play. Then, at age 25, he was facing major surgery.
"It was as tedious a process I've been around," Frandsen said.
Frandsen tore it March 24, 2008. He returned to play in the Giants' final game that season on Sept. 28. He was not 100 percent healthy.
"No chance," he said. "I don't think you're 100 percent for at least a year or year and a half, where you feel like you're doing everything you've done in the past. It took quite a long time. And I was early on every thing; ahead of schedule with no setbacks. When I played, everyone was like, 'Oh, you must be 100 percent.' No. It's still a process. The whole thing, you have to continue it."
The Phillies have targeted May as a loose timetable for Howard's return. Howard didn't want to affix such a date to his recovery. That may be semantics, but the overriding question is, what sort of player will Howard be upon his return?
Frandsen said he's spoken to Howard about what he'll encounter. While Howard participated in batting practice for the first time Wednesday, it's far from being a major milestone.
"Hitting is the easiest thing," Frandsen said. "There's no thought process in any of that."
The weirdest feeling, he said, will be when Howard busts it out of the batter's box for the first few times. Frandsen said that requires acclimation time.
"It's really screwed up," Frandsen said. "It doesn't feel normal. It doesn't hurt. It just feels really weird."
And Frandsen said, all things considered, he was lucky.
"I didn't have one setback," he said. "Looking back on it, I was as fortunate as could be. We were patient but we pushed at the same time. We made sure everything went according to plan. We didn't have to take two or three days off from doing it. Once it's free, you just have to get used to some of the feelings. They bring [the Achilles] down. It's a lot tighter and thicker. You have to break it up. You get to that point when you start playing and you have to keep going."
But when Frandsen sees Howard, he believes in the process.
"Just watching him walk around, it's awesome," Frandsen said. "I think he's in a good spot where's at, just by going off the look. I've been in that position."
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