NEW YORK - Ryan Howard is making progress in his rehabilitation for an Achillies' injury, and the star first baseman is expected to return to the Philadelphia Phillies for tonight's game against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park.

"Excited to be back in Philly tomorrow," Howard posted on his Twitter feed Thursday night.

Howard played back-to-back games in the field for the first time Thursday night in triple-A Lehigh Valley's 7-2 win over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Howard was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two walks.

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Sidelined since being injured making the final out of the Phillies' season last year - Game 5 of the National League division series against St. Louis - Howard is hitting .500 (10-for-20) with two doubles, a homer and 11 RBIs in the minors.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said after Thursday's 6-5 loss to the Mets that Howard will rejoin the Phillies today, be examined by a team doctor and is "likely to start."

The All-Star break shouldn't be a detriment to Howard finding his timing at the plate if he plays in the Phillies' series against Atlanta then rests for four days.

"If he plays this weekend (for the Phillies), it may not be the worst thing for him to get some time off. You just don't know how he'll react and what kind of adrenaline there will be. We'll take it one day at a time with him." Amaro said before Thursday's game.

Also, Amaro says Roy Halladay is going to have another bullpen session Saturday after throwing 56 pitches Tuesday.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner has been out since May 28 because of a strained latissimus dorsi muscle on the right side of his back.

Halladay will likely need "some type of rehab," Amaro said. It could be a simulated game rather than pitching for a minor league club, though.

Notes: Laynce Nix made progress in his recovery from a left calf strain. Out since May 11, Nix had a setback two weeks ago but is feeling better, Amaro said. He should go out on a rehab assignment soon after the break. ... Domonic Brown has not played for triple-A Lehigh Valley since June 14 because of a sprained right knee. Amaro said Brown could go to Florida on Friday to begin a rehab assignment. ... Cliff Lee could pitch out of the bullpen this weekend, if needed. Lee started Wednesday and will not start again until after the All-Star break.

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