Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 7/7/12

After his first night back in the major leagues after suffering a ruptured left Achilles tendon in last year's National League playoffs, Ryan Howard looked out at the bevy of reporters that surrounded him.

He was eventually asked about how much of the load he could shoulder for a Philadelphia Phillies team on the brink of collapse.

"Nothing more than this bookbag on my back," Howard replied.

Howard's first game back produced decent results as the slugger went 2-for-4 with a double. However, the Phillies lost 5-0 to the Atlanta Braves, extending their losing skid to eight out of their last nine games and falling 11 games under .500 for the first time since June 6, 2002.

"Felt good," Howard said. "The outcome didn't go the way we wanted to. But the rhythm of getting back out on the field and the ambience with the fans -- it felt good to be back."

For the Phillies, the trick now is to see how Howard will be used. He is expected to see limited action over the rest of the weekend -- manager Charlie Manuel said he expected Howard to take Saturday off before playing on Sunday.

"He'll probably play two of the three," Manuel said during Friday's pregame chat with the media. "Kind of work him in. He hadn't been playing a lot, either, kind of like (Chase) Utley. I have to talk to him every day and see what he's doing and see where he's at and things like that. Plus we'll get to see him in the game and see how good he can move and what's going on."

One concession early on might be the fact that Howard is lifted in key defensive or baserunning situations. Howard reached second both times he was on base Friday -- the last time coming in the seventh inning of a scoreless game. Manuel left him in but indicated that could change in the future.

"I would have probably ran for him if it was a ninth-inning problem," Manuel said after the game. "I didn't want to take him out of the game because he might come back up."

For Howard, the remnants of the rupture that took place on the final out of the National League Division Series against the Cardinals are still there with a noticeable gimp in his step. However, he insisted that he's not in pain.

"The Achilles is fine," he said. "It's just the rest of the foot. Getting stronger day by day. It might take a little while to get my strength back. I might have a little Kirk Gibson in my run."

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