It's white elephant time, people.

We've played this game once before this offseason. The second after DeSean Jackson's sanctimonious scribble? Our sights turned to LeSean McCoy's Rotoworld page. Both players needed to be re-upped, yet only one was. "How long," we wondered aloud "till the other gets his?"

That's kind of where we're at now with Ryan Howard. With news that Chase Utley's starting a rehab assignment in Single-A Clearwater Tuesday, a gig that can't last for more than 20 days per league rules, comes the assumption that, yeah, dude's going to be penned in the lineup by July 1. (Has to be by July 3.) And that leaves us all grasping for something to cling to on Howard.

So far? Nuthin.

Ruben Amaro spoke up about it yesterday:

"He doesn't have the explosive moves necessary to run the bases, but he is running and fielding and doing all the necessary baseball stuff that will get him back on the field."

"It's going to be a long, long time until he's 100-percent back. That [strength] might not be [100 percent] before this year is over, but he's going to gain enough strength over the next several weeks to be a productive player."

But that's not saying much. That right there? Seemed like filler. No substance. Off-the-cuff answer to a had-to-be-asked question. Obviously he can't lumber around the bags. Obviously Ryan Howard won't be Ryan Howard until 2013. Obvi.

But nothing of a timetable? Not even a hint or drop or slip? Nothing?!?

Not like Amaro was going to tell all. (Certainly not about Ryan Howard, and certainly not to the guy who, as recently as two weeks ago, was locked out of the team's Florida facilities.) But you figured that, if there were anything to tell, yesterday would've been the time to do it. Not to detract from Utley's accomplishment. But to magnify it, capitalizing on those 32 seconds of seeming organizational discord of their cross-town rivals and top-to-bottom snooze that's become the Philly sports scene this summer. (More than in part due to the Phillies gaffe of a first-half.) Which, yeah, seems as much an impetus as any for creating a stir, even for only the sake of so doing. And nothing from Amaro? Dude didn't even reach?

Almost makes you wonder if he's got anything to tell you.

Which, given that we're 52 games in and 8.5 out of first place in the NL East -- the deepest hole in the last five years -- is pretty scary stuff. Because if there's nothing -- nothing!!! -- to tell you now, something (news, an actual return, anything) is probably going to prove to be too late. Might already be.