NEW YORK - Jimmy Rollins said the X-rays he got on his sprained left ankle last night were a precautionary measure, and that seems to be the case. Rollins said after last night's 5-2 loss that they came back negative.

The MVP shortstop removed himself from the lineup before the game after testing the ankle on the field at Shea Stadium. Rollins said he hoped to play tonight, and that he didn't think the ankle injury would linger.

"It's just sore, it isn't anything more than that right now," said Rollins, who had his streak of 230 consecutive games played snapped.

Without him, the Phillies have a huge hole at the top of the lineup. Though utility infielder Eric Bruntlett's defensive prowess earned him a spot on the roster, he has generally been a bottom-of-the-order hitter.

Besides Rollins, no player on the roster has much of a history as a leadoff hitter. Shane Victorino has filled the role in 15 games, but has hit just 11-for-65 with a .217 on-base percentage in the situation.

"I'll lead [Ryan] Howard off," manager Charlie Manuel joked. "Give you guys something to write about."

At shortstop, Bruntlett is the only option. Utility infielder Greg Dobbs has played every infield position except short. Third baseman Pedro Feliz has played there sparingly (23 career games).If there weren't 153 games remaining in the Phillies' season, Rollins said he would have played. But it's only April, which means he has plenty of incentive to play it safe.

After testing the ankle before the game and consulting with head trainer Scott Sheridan, hitting coach Milt Thompson, and ESPN broadcaster and Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, Rollins decided to remove himself from the lineup.

"I want to go out there and play every day, but Joe Morgan and Milt said it. You go out there on a bad ankle you start getting some bad habits at the plate," Rollins said. "My swing feels pretty good right now so I don't want to start that."

Rollins said he was hopeful that he would be able to play in the series finale against the Mets tonight. He was available to pinch-hit against a righthanded pitcher last night.

"It's never been swollen, it's just my mobility going left to right is pretty sore, and that's what my game is, especially defensively," Rollins said.

Bruntlett is a good defensive player who has played every position except catcher. But he had a pair of fielding errors in the third inning when the Mets scored six runs, only one of which was earned.

Manuel said he would like to get Rollins more rest throughout the course of the season, but Rollins' importance to the lineup makes it hard.

"I'd probably like to give him a blow every now and then if I could see where he's getting tired and he needs a blow, yeah I'd like to be able to give him one," Manuel said. "When you're always fighting and coming from behind, it seems like every day you play you have to win, you have to win, you have to win. So if he's available, it's kind of like, hey look, I don't want to rest Jimmy Rollins today. I'll rest him tomorrow. And then if you lose that game, then no I'm not resting him tomorrow . . . I'll rest him if we've got a 10-game lead with nine to play."

Madson sore

The Phillies weren't saying much about the shoulder soreness that has shelved righthander Ryan Madson for five games. But the reliever said the soreness wasn't in the same area as the shoulder strain that caused him to miss the last 2 months of last season.

"It feels 100 percent today," Madson said.

Madson, who threw on the side yesterday under the supervision of pitching coach Rich Dubee, said the shoulder has improved each day since his last outing. Madson threw 35 pitches in two innings in an 8-4 win over Cincinnati on Friday, then complained of soreness the next day.

"I didn't want to keep throwing through it and then be out for 3 months," Madson said.

Madson is an important part of the Phillies' bullpen because of his ability to throw more than one inning. He hasn't had a great start to the season, allowing three runs in 4 1/3 innings.

"Look, I'm concerned about every time one of those guys get hurt," Charlie Manuel said. "I want to play with a full deck. Do I get mad at the guy individually? No, but I just kind of get upset."

Victorino update

Shane Victorino showed no ill-effects from the collision with rightfielder Jayson Werth in the fourth inning Monday. After the play, Charlie Manuel jogged with trainers to the outfield where Victorino was slow in getting up.

"When I went running out there, he was running and giggling. I felt like he was OK," Manuel said. *