Next test in Howard's rehab coming soon

Ryan Howard was injured in the final at-bat of the Phillies' season. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/Staff Photographer)

While the quest to re-sign Jimmy Rollins at the right price will intensify when the Phillies head to the winter meetings Sunday in Dallas, the team should also get a clearer indication about first baseman Ryan Howard's rehab from surgery on his ruptured left Achilles' tendon in the near future.

Howard, injured in the final at-bat of the Phillies' season during their playoff loss to St. Louis, has been walking around in a boot designed to keep weight off his left leg.

"He seems to be progressing OK," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "When he starts doing more weight-bearing stuff, we should get a better indication of what the time frame will be (for his return). Hopefully by the middle of this month he'll start doing those weight-bearing things."

It has been estimated that Howard will be sidelined until at least May.

It's unclear how the Phillies plan to replace Howard if he is not ready to begin the season, but recently acquired Ty Wigginton is probably the primary option right now. Wigginton has started 114 games at first base over the last two seasons with Baltimore and Colorado.

Amaro said all indications continue to point toward third baseman Placido Polanco being ready for opening day after undergoing double hernia surgery shortly after the season ended.

"He may be a little behind at the start of spring training, but he should be there on opening day," Amaro said.