More than eight months after crumpling to the ground with an Achilles injury as the Philadelphia Phillies’ season crumbled in the playoffs, Ryan Howard was back on the field Thursday night in the same Jersey shore stadium where he starred as a minor-leaguer.

The 32-year-old former NL MVP began a rehab assignment with the Class A Lakewood (N.J.) Blue Claws, where he played in 2002.

The team said Howard, a three-time All-Star, was the designated hitter at FirstEnergy Park as the BlueClaws took on the West Virginia Power.

It’s his first game since rupturing an Achilles’ tendon after grounding to second for the final out of Game 5 of the National League Division Series.

If his rehab goes the full 20 days, Howard could rejoin the Phillies on July 18 in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.

The Phillies designated right-hander Chad Qualls for assignment and called up righty Brian Sanches and lefty Jeremy Horst. Qualls was 1-1 with a 4.60 ERA in 35 games for the Phillies. Horst was 2-1 with two saves and a 2.11 ERA in 26 games in Triple-A. Lefty Joe Savery was optioned to Triple-A after Wednesday night’s loss to Pittsburgh.

MRI shows improvement in Martinez’s knee

Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez has undergone a follow-up MRI exam that shows improvement in his injured left knee.

Martinez, who had microfracture surgery in January and had the medial and lateral meniscus in the knee repaired, was examined Thursday by Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, Colo. The best-case scenario for Martinez to return this season is mid-to-late September.

Also, right-hander Al Alburquerque, on the 60-day disabled list following right elbow surgery, is scheduled to throw batting practice two more times before being re-evaluated to see if he’s ready to pitch in minor league games.

Andy Dirks, sidelined by right Achilles’ tendinitis, will be re-examined today, at which time the outfielder could be cleared to resume some activity.

More players on the move

The Chicago White Sox purchased the contract of left-hander Leyson Septimo from Triple-A Charlotte and designated reliever Will Ohman for assignment. … The Tampa Bay Rays activated designated hitter Luke Scott from the 15-day disabled list and optioned right-handed pitcher Chris Archer to Triple-A Durham. … The New York Yankees purchased the contract of right-hander Adam Warren from Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes/Barre.

Dykstra to plead guilty in federal court

Former New York Mets outfielder Lenny Dykstra agreed to plead guilty to three counts stemming from a bankruptcy fraud case in Los Angeles, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Dykstra will plead guilty to one count each of bankruptcy fraud, concealment of assets and money laundering, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office said. Dykstra faces up to 20 years in federal prison.