HOUSTON - In their quest for another lefthander in the bullpen, the Phillies converted starters

Josh Outman

and

Fabio Castro

into relief roles earlier this month.

It doesn't sound as if they will help the Phillies in the short term.

"It's a work in progress," general manager

Pat Gillick

said before last night's 4-3 loss to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. "I don't think at this point they're ready. I think everybody is making improvements. At some point they could help, but right now I don't think it's appropriate."

Outman is 0-0 with a 1.35 ERA in seven relief appearances for double-A Reading. In 131/3 innings, he has allowed 10 hits, two earned runs and five walks, with 11 strikeouts. Opponents have hit just .208.

Castro is 0-0 with a 6.75 ERA in seven appearances for Reading. In 102/3 innings, he has allowed 10 hits, eight earned runs and eight walks, with 10 strikeouts. Opponents have hit .250.

The Phillies also have lefthander

Steve Kline

at triple-A Lehigh Valley. He is 0-1 with a 4.24 ERA in 14 appearances.

"His stuff has been very iffy," Gillick said.

J.C. Romero

is the only lefty manager

Charlie Manuel

can go to in the bullpen.

It's not as if the Phils are desperate for relievers. The bullpen entered last night with a 2.84 ERA, the best in baseball. Opponents have hit just .231 against Phillies relievers, the fourth-best mark in baseball and the second-best in the National League.

"There have been times we could use a lefthander," Gillick said. "We can't keep going to Romero. In other words, there have been times in the fifth or sixth inning [Manuel] needed a lefthander, but he is trying to save Romero. We just need somebody who can get somebody out earlier than the seventh inning."

Burrell is back

Manuel kicked around the idea of not starting leftfielder

Pat Burrell

in back-to-back games in Houston because he had been struggling.

But Burrell came off the bench Thursday to hit the game-winning home run. He started last night, which might not be a coincidence - although the unavailability of

Jayson Werth

was a factor.

"He likes to hit in this ballpark for some reason," Manuel said. "And I felt like today was a good time to put him back."

Good decision. Burrell homered in the second inning.

Werth on the DL

The Phillies placed Werth on the disabled list after last night's game. He has a strained right abdominal muscle.

Werth suffered the injury swinging at a 2-1 pitch in the eighth inning Thursday.

"I'm feeling better," he said last night. "I'm feeling a lot better, actually."

"He can't swing the bat or throw," Manuel said.

The Phillies called up outfielder

T.J. Bohn

from triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Howard's struggles

Ryan Howard

entered last night 6 for 10 with two doubles, three home runs and six RBIs in his previous two games. He was hitting .304 (17 for 56) with three doubles, a triple, seven homers, and 15 RBIs since May 7.

Was he out of his slump?

Manuel wasn't about to make that proclamation.

"I'll let you guys say what you want to say," he told reporters before the game. "I'll just sit there and watch him and let him go. . . . He's starting to hit the ball consistently hard. When he does that, that's what gets you going. He's been more patient. He's getting better balls to hit."

Last night he was 0 for 4.

Step up, Brett

Brett Myers

(2-5, 5.76 ERA) will face righthander

Brian Moehler

(1-1, 4.76) tonight.

Myers allowed eight hits, three runs and three walks, and struck out six in six innings Monday at Nationals Park in Washington. He called the effort "so-so." Pitching coach

Rich Dubee

said Myers threw "all right."

"I felt like he definitely made some quality pitches," Manuel said.

Love you, too

Closer

Brad Lidge

got

Lance Berkman

, the hottest hitter on the planet, to pop up a fastball away to end Thursday's game. Berkman played with Lidge from 2002 to '07 with the Astros, and they remain friends. He sent Lidge a succinct text message afterward.

"I hate you," it read.

- Todd Zolecki