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Rollins returns, Howard sits, Ruf rehabs

After sitting out of the starting lineup for two games with a right groin injury, Jimmy Rollins is hitting second and in the designated hitter spot for the Phillies tonight in Toronto.

Two days earlier, when a minor right groin injury forced him out of the starting lineup, Jimmy Rollins was asked about his status for the coming days and admitted that "turf doesn't sound very good right about now."

Although the Jays are switching to grass in the next few years, when the arena football team's lease is up at the Rogers Centre, they currently are one of two major league teams that play on a turf field. Manager Ryne Sandberg wouldn't say whether the playing surface was a factor, but when he penciled Rollins into his starting lineup for the first time since Sunday, he slotted the Gold Glove shortstop into the designated hitter spot.

"He wanted to do was take a pregame yesterday on defense, so he'll do a step above that pregame on the defensive side (today), go a little bit more side to side," Sandberg said. "I'm encouraged with him DH-ing tonight. That's a step in the right direction. He's feeling a lot better today than yesterday, so that fact that he's in the lineup as a hitter is a step in the right direction."

Jayson Nix is in Rollins' usual place at shortstop.

The other notable news from Sandberg's lineup against Toronto lefthander Mark Buehrle: Ryan Howard is not in the starting nine. John Mayberry Jr. is playing first base

Howard has never faced Buehrle in his career. But Howard is hitting just .216 with a .268 OBP against lefthanded pitching this season; he's struck out 16 times in 37 at-bats against lefties.

The Phillies may eventually have an optimal righthanded-hitting platoon option for Howard: Darin Ruf will begin an official rehab assignment at Class A Clearwater on Thursday.

Ruf, who suffered a rib cage injury a week before the end of spring training, got seven at-bats in 5 innings of an extended spring training game on Tuesday. He has played in 4-5 extended games within the last week, getting work at both first base and in the outfield.

Assistant general manager Scott Proefrock didn't have an exact timetable on Ruf's return; he said Ruf's play will likely dictate that. Ruf is likely to return at some point before the end of the month, if not sooner.

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