On a rainy day at Phillies camp, Ryan Howard was Mr. Sunshine.

“Let’s have a happy attitude about asking questions,” he told reporters as he opened his first news conference of the spring Thursday.

The questions were not particularly happy. They seldom are after a season in which a player missed half the year with an injury then hit a career-low .219 when he returned. But even the mention of his poor performance against left-handed pitchers and his team’s advancing age couldn’t dampen Howard’s mood.

He’s pumped. He’s upbeat.

Most important, he’s healthy.

“My left leg feels phenomenal,” he said with a smile.

At this time last year, Howard was walking with a limp as he recovered from a torn left Achilles tendon. He developed a post-surgical infection which required a procedure that left him in a walking boot for weeks, sapped strength from his leg, robbed him of conditioning time and kept him out of the lineup until July 6.

Howard was quick to remind reporters Thursday that he drove in 56 runs in 260 at-bats, a fine achievement to say the least. But how much more damage would Howard have done if he hadn’t struck out in 35 percent of his plate appearances (a career worst) and hit .173 with a .604 OPS against lefties?

Howard acknowledged that not having a full spring training as well as the aftereffects of the injury hurt his performance at the plate. He believes the prep work of a full spring training and a return to health will help him in 2013.

“You don’t realize how important a spring training is until you don’t have one,” Howard said. “When I came back, [the Achilles] was always right there in the back of my mind. There was a little bit of hesitation putting weight on it. I didn’t have the full strength to be able to push off and follow-up on my swing. Now I don't even think about it.”