Phillies first basemen Ryan Howard will begin baseball activities on Thursday.  He was given clearance after visiting with a doctor Monday.

Howard had surgery five weeks ago to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee and will be eased back into things. The veteran first baseman has lost about 15-20 pounds during the rehab process and is currently working on an anti-gravity treadmill.  Howard has been doing some other baseball activities, but he has not been swinging a bat yet.

"He's been throwing and doing some other things," Phillies GM Ruben Amaro said. "Again, we don't have a timeline for him. We hope he gets back in September at some point. Right now, we're just trying to get him as close to 100 percent as possible. We're not going to bring him here and have him play in Philadelphia unless we think he's absolutely 100 percent and ready to go."

The Phillies aren't ruling out a late-season return, but assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said the main goal is to get him "to the point where there are no surprises in spring training next year."