Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 6/26/12

Second baseman Chase Utley is expected to return to the Phillies lineup this week, and Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard apparently is close to starting his rehab assignment.

Howard will be in Philadelphia for "functional testing" on his Achilles tendon on Wednesday, according to a press release.

If those tests indicate his Achilles is strong enough, Howard will start his rehabilitation assignment Thursday with Class-A Lakewood.

It is difficult to predict how long the rehab assignment will be, but Howard could be back in the Phillies lineup soon after the All-Star break.

Howard, 32, hit .253 with 33 homers and 116 RBIs last season for the Phillies. He tore his Achilles tendon on the final play of the Phillies' final game of last season, a 1-0 postseason loss to the Cardinals that clinched that playoff series for St. Louis.

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