Ryan Howard treated for infection

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard had a procedure Monday to clean out an infection around the sutures in his surgically repaired Achilles tendon, the team's head athletic trainer, Scott Sheridan, said Wednesday.

The procedure was performed in Baltimore by Dr. Mark Myerson, who also performed Howard's original surgery in October.

Sheridan said the infection was unusual in cases such as Howard's, but the examination revealed that structurally, the tendon itself was "intact and not compromised."

Howard was expected to begin 2012 on the disabled list, but there was optimism when camp began that he could be ready at some point in May.

Howard missed his fourth consecutive day of workouts Wednesday, and Sheridan said the Phillies weren't sure when Howard would get back on the field until they conferred with Myerson.

Asked again if this development could be described as a setback, Sheridan said: "I don't prefer to use that word. I know that's the word everybody wants to use. ... We never established a particular time frame for him. And right now, it's one of those things that happens in the rehab process. And we just have to move forward from it."

Howard left camp Sunday for a scheduled appointment Monday with Myerson. But Sheridan said at the time that the Phillies also wanted Myerson to examine the skin near the sutures, which they were concerned was not healing properly.

The exam Monday revealed an infection, which Sheridan said was "cleaned out," and Howard will be treated with antibiotics.

"I think it's common for the skin behind the Achilles to have trouble healing," Sheridan said. "I don't know that it's common for the infection to occur. But I do know that the area is a tough area to heal. It doesn't have very good blood supply."

Asked if, in the big picture, this could be regarded as good news, Sheridan replied: "I don't think, any time you have an infection, that's good news. But from the standpoint of things that could happen and didn't happen, we're pleased that the biggest thing is that the Achilles is intact."

Sheridan was reluctant to speculate on when Howard could resume baseball activities.

"I have no idea on that," he said. "We'll talk to Dr. Myerson in the next couple of days, see how he responds to the antibiotics, and we'll go from there. ...

"The things that Ryan had been doing (until this) were very good," Sheridan said. "We had been doing some basic cutting with him. We're hoping we can just kind of move forward from here and that this won't push it back too much."

He said that when Howard does resume workouts, the Phillies still will have to be careful not to aggravate the infected area.

"There will be some days," Sheridan said, "where we just need to make sure that continues to heal and that we don't really set ourselves up for any problems down the line."

Senior writer Jayson Stark covers Major League Baseball for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.