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CBSSports.com Insider Jon Heyman tweets (at 5:15 a.m., no less) that Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has a new timetable for his return from the Achilles' injury he suffered during the NLDS: late May or early June. This, of course, puts him on course to return much later than initially believed and hoped.

Recently, Howard developed an infection at the site of the surgical wound and had to undergo another procedure intended to clean up that infection, and then it was back to wearing a walking boot. With Ty Wigginton, John Mayberry Jr. and -- most important -- Jim Thome on the roster, the Phillies are reasonably well equipped to deal with an extended absence on the part of Howard.

The real concern, however, may be their investment in Howard. Howard is merely toe-deep in the rather insane five-year, $125-million contract that he and agent Casey Close signed in April of 2010 but that didn't go into effect until this season. The Phillies and GM Ruben Amaro will be on the hook until at least 2016, and then they must fork over another $10 million to buy out Howard's $23-million option for 2017. Suffice it to say, that's a tremendous outlay for the decline phase of a big-bodied, defensively challenged first baseman with platoon weaknesses and fresh injury concerns.

And speaking of decline phase, Howard's numbers have been cycling downward since 2009. Throw in this very serious and lingering injury to the leg he uses to generate power at the plate, and Howard's contract could turn out to be an absolute disaster for the Phillies.

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