WASHINGTON – With the top of his order struggling, with his team averaging a run fewer each game in their past seven games, the bad news resonated for Charlie Manuel.
Speedy, versatile switch-hitter Shane Victorino suffered a setback in his first rehab start on Tuesday night, with Double A Reading. He aggravated his strained right calf muscle trying to beat out a swinging bunt in his third at-bat as the designated hitter.
Victorino will visit team physician Dr. Michael Ciccotti today and will rest the leg at least 2 days before resuming his road back.
All of which means Manuel's current daily lineup, with Tadahito Iguchi hitting second and Pat Burrell hitting third, will not be bolstered by the versatile Victorino, whom the club hoped would return tomorrow in Pittsburgh.
Instead, Victorino will likely return no earlier than late next week. That's tough luck for the guy filling out the lineup card.
Victorino can lead off. That would allow Jimmy Rollins to hit third, a spot vacated for as many as 5 weeks by Chase Utley when he suffered a broken right hand July 26.
Hitting third in the first nine games without Utley, Rollins went 14-for-38 with six RBI and six extra-base hits. He moved back to leadoff when Victorino and Michael Bourn (ankle) were felled July 30 in Chicago.
Rollins hitting third could move Burrell back to sixth, where he was having so much success.
Actually, it was working for a while.
Iguchi and Burrell seemed to ably replace Victorino and Chase Utley in the No. 2 and No. 3 slots, respectively.
Lately, the replacements haven't been producing.
Iguchi is 2-for-21 in his last five games. Burrell is 3-for-16.
Iguchi's dropoff in production is more remarkable.
In the first nine games after Victorino's injury, Iguchi, a trade product who replaced Utley at second base, stayed hot, going 15-for-39.
Burrell is a different story.
Since moving from the No. 6 slot to the No. 3 slot on Aug. 5, Burrell is 6-for-32. In his 27 games before the move, hitting almost exclusively sixth, Burrell hit .450 with nine homers and 26 RBI.
Manager Charlie Manuel has been asked repeatedly why he didn't move All-Star centerfielder Aaron Rowand from fifth to third. Repeatedly, Manuel has replied that Rowand has been hot hitting fifth.
That was true . . . until just after Victorino left the lineup. In his last 12 games, Rowand is hitting (9-for-42) in the five hole.
What's more, Rollins is 7-for-34 since moving back to the leadoff spot nine games ago.
Is Manuel – whose five-runs-a-game team suddenly is at four per outing – contemplating a lineup shakeup?
"When they're throwing righties like this and they're eating us up, you've got to do something," Manuel said.
He acknowledged that Rollins needs a day off after starting every game this season. He stressed that Rowand needs a day, too, although Rowand, when approached, replied, "I'm fine."
So, that something with the lineup likely will hold until tomorrow. With ace Cole Hamels starting tonight, Manuel said he prefers to field his best defensive team. Assuredly, that team includes Rowand and Rollins as well as third baseman Abraham Nunez, an offensive question mark at best.
It also could mean a seat for Burrell in favor of lefty hitter Greg Dobbs, who, with righthanded hitter Jayson Werth, provides the best corner outfield configuration.
"I'll go back to the hotel and write out some lineups, I guess," said Manuel, with the air of a man trying to complete an abstract picture puzzle.
Meanwhile, he can only hope his offense holds on until the end of the month.
"I'd like to have Shane and 'Ut' back as soon as possible. That gives us more weapons in our lineup, especially against righthanded pitching. I'm very concerned about that," Manuel said. "We have a very different makeup when we get those two guys back. Speed comes into play."
So does matching up against some of the division's tougher starters, such as Nationals sinkerballer Shawn Hill, who baffled the Phils on Tuesday.
"Anytime you get a guy like that with a real good sinker and good command, if you can overload lefthanded hitters against them, that's how you get to them," Manuel said.