Here's some news and notes out of the NL East:
- Philadelphia Phillies first basemen Ryan Howard is working out without a boot on his left foot. Last week Howard was cleared to start light exercises with the boot on. Howard will still miss at least the first two months of the season and will not have 100% strength on the injured leg for about a year.
- New York Mets pitcher Johan Santana is on track to be start Opening Day against the Atlanta Braves. Santana retired the first seven St. Louis Cardinals he faced Wednesday and took a scoreless effort into the sixth inning. The last time Santana pitched at least six innings was August 28, 2010, two and a half weeks before he had shoulder surgery.
- Washington Nationals outfielder Michael Morse's chances of being ready to play by opening day are "dwindling." Morse, recovering from a lat injury, recently received a platelet-rich plasma treatment. The relatively new treatment has been used by a couple other major leaguers, including Alex Rodriguez last winter and most recently Zach Britton.
- Over at ESPN's Sweet Spot, David Schoenfield recalls how the Braves drafted Chipper Jones and how he became the ultimate franchise player. Schoenfield compares him to other number one picks and reflects on Jones' place in history.
- Jeff Sullivan takes an in-depth look at how the Marlins' new homerun monument will affect hitters. He compares it to the fake rockpile at Angels Stadium and finds these decorative backdrops change hitting more than you'd think. Sullivan admits we can't know anything until games are played, but presents good evidence that hitters may learn to hate the colorful, palm-treed goliath.