IT LOOKS LIKE Jayson Werth will be back in the Phillies' lineup either Saturday or Tuesday, depending on how smoothly the final stages of his recovery from an oblique strain transpire.

If the outfielder is healthy enough to be activated on Saturday, when his stint on the disabled list ends, the Phillies would likely do so, because the Braves are scheduled to throw lefthander Jo-Jo Reyes that night.

But the club could wait until Tuesday if it feels Werth needs a couple of extra days.

Manager Charlie Manuel uses Werth primarily against left-handed pitching, but the Braves are scheduled to throw right-hander Jorge Campillo on Sunday afternoon. The Phillies are off Monday, then begin a series at Florida on Tuesday.

"If I'm not ready for Saturday, then it will probably be Tuesday in Florida," said Werth, who is hitting .309 against lefties and .224 against righties this season.

The Phillies have yet to decide when he will begin his rehab assignment, but Manuel said yesterday that Werth likely would play a couple of games in the minors before rejoining the team.

Regardless of when he returns to the lineup, his injury doesn't appear to be one that will linger. He has progressed steadily since straining the oblique in the eighth inning against the Astros May 22. Yesterday, he took 20 swings during batting practice, and today expects to participate in a full session of 40 swings.

Werth said he only feels slight sensation in the strained muscle, more so when he is running than when he is swinging. Nevertheless, the Phillies likely will err on the side of caution in the same way they did with previous trips to the DL by Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino.

"It's a situation where you don't want to come back 2 days early and aggravate it where it would have been 2 more days and you would have been fine," Werth said. "It's a fine line."

A day off for his Ut-most?

Looking at Chase Utley's performance during the first third of the season - his broken-bat RBI single to centerfield in the third inning last night marked the ninth straight game in which he has driven in at least one run - it's easy to see why he is the only player on the team who has started every game. But it doesn't sound like Manuel wants Utley playing in all 162 games.

"I think it's very important that he's got to get some time off every now and then," Manuel said.

Utley played in 160 games 2 years ago, but a wrist injury limited him to 132 last season. Because he plays the game with such intensity - witness his bowling over catcher David Ross on Monday - it's easy to see how he might wear down as a season progresses. But Manuel did say that Utley is more prepared now to handle the rigors of a major league season than when he first came up.

"I don't want to say pace yourself, because he's not the kind of guy to ever pace himself, but I think he kind of knows what's ahead of him and he knows how to handle it," Manuel said.

Utley is one of five Phillies to have at least one RBI in nine or more consecutive games. The last was Ryan Howard, who did it twice in 2006. The franchise record is 10, held by Pinky Whitney in 1931 and Bobby Abreu in 2005.

Interesting stat dept.

As of yesterday, Utley had a career OPS of .915, the fifth-highest in Phillies history (minimum 2,000 at-bats). That puts him in the company of Hall of Famers Chuck Klein (first with .935), Billy Hamilton (tied for 2nd, .928), Ed Delahanty (4th, .923) and Mike Schmidt (6th, .908).

For all the non-stat heads out there, OPS is on-base percentage plus slugging percentage and is considered by many to be the most accurate indicator of a player's overall performance.

The only other player besides Utley in the top six who isn't a Hall of Famer? None other than Bobby Abreu, tied with Hamilton for second with an OPS of .928.

Phillers

Carlos Ruiz returned to the lineup for the first time since suffering a hand contusion Saturday against the Marlins. Chris Coste started at catcher Sunday and Monday . . . Jimmy Rollins went 3-for-4 to break out of a 2-for-21 slump . . . The Phillies' scouting department has spent the past few days making final preparations for the 2008 draft, which begins tomorrow and runs through Friday. The Phillies have six of the top 110 picks, setting up what scouting director Marti Wolever told reporters yesterday was the "most significant" draft in his 16 years with the club . . . Kris Benson could throw again this weekend after a visit to team doctor Michael Ciccotti confirmed the righthander's arm was merely sore. Benson was scratched from a minor league start Monday. *