Howard excited about his progress so far

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An injured Ryan Howard clutching his leg and writhing in pain on the ground was the lasting image for the Philadelphia Phillies’ disappointing 2011 finish.

The big slugger is doing much better now, and he was all smiles after taking batting practice Wednesday for the first time since surgery to repair his torn left Achilles tendon.

“I feel good where I am right now,” Howard said. “I don’t know what everybody else’s expectations were for me to be at this point, but I feel good. Not exactly where I want to be yet. There is still a lot of strengthening that needs to take place, change of direction and working on those kinds of things. But I feel all right.”

ANGELS: Bobby Abreu says he wants to be an everyday player and thinks Los Angeles should trade him if he is going to spend most of this season on the bench.

Manager Mike Scioscia said he doesn’t expect Abreu to become a distraction in the clubhouse but stopped short of saying he’ll play every day.

• Veteran right-hander Jason Isringhausen has agreed to a minor league deal with the Angels.

RANGERS: President and CEO Nolan Ryan says the team assembling for this spring training is his best.

The Hall of Fame pitcher spoke of how impressed he is with the team’s expensive addition from Japan, right-hander Yu Darvish, then talked of the addiction struggles of outfielder Josh Hamilton and his high expectations for this team.

Ryan based his optimism on the Rangers’ talented young starting rotation and the nucleus of good players still in their prime.

YANKEES: Ivan Nova’s arm feels fine, and he says there are no aftereffects of the injury that cut short his start in Game 5 of the AL Division Series.

• Injured pitcher David Aardsma has agreed to a $500,000, one-year contract with the club.

INDIANS: Roberto Hernan­dez, the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona told The AP he hopes to obtain a judicial pardon and return to the team this season.

• Signed infielder Cristian Guzman, 33, to a minor league contract.


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