SAN DIEGO - Impressed by rookie Antonio Bastardo's major-league debut Tuesday, manager Charlie Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee said the lefthander most likely would start Sunday's nationally televised game in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.

"We need a starter," Manuel said. "I'm not saying it's him definitely, but I'd say it's real close, unless something happens. I like the way he pitched."

Dubee, asked later whether Bastardo would start Sunday, said, "Yes, as far as I know."

The 23-year-old Dominican earned the win by going six innings and allowing only one run - a home run by Adrian Gonzalez, who leads the major leagues in homers.

"I think I did a good job," Bastardo said Tuesday night through interpreter Raul Ibanez. "I couldn't say , but I was a little bit, not that much. As the game went on, I felt better - more relaxed, more confident from the third inning on."

"It wasn't like his command was great," Manuel said yesterday. "What happened was, he had stuff. He was up and down, and he might just have been wild enough to be effective. But now his fastball is definitely good enough. He surprised me with his fastball. I didn't realize he could throw that hard. I saw his slider in spring training. He's got a good slider, and he's got a good change-up."

Bastardo has been used as a starter and reliever in the minor leagues. Dubee said that while the lefthander's 95-m.p.h. fastball and sharp slider could make him an effective reliever one day, he did not yet know how Bastardo ultimately would be used.

"Do you have any idea how hard it is to pitch in the eighth inning?" Dubee said. "It is way too early to tell what kind of pitcher he is, after one appearance."

Dubee said Bastardo understands enough English to communicate with his pitching coach without a translator.

Bullpen shuffle

With lefthanded reliever J.C. Romero done serving his 50-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, lefthander Sergio Escalona was sent to triple-A Lehigh Valley. Manuel said that lefty Jack Taschner will mostly pitch against lefthanded batters in middle innings, Scott Eyre will continue as a late-inning lefty specialist, and Romero will face both lefties and righties in the late innings,

"I think our bullpen did fine without J.C," Manuel said. "I feel like Scott Eyre did a tremendous job for us."

Fast 51 for Ibanez

Ibanez had five RBIs in Tuesday's win at San Diego, giving him 51 in the team's 50 games this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is the most RBIs for a player in the Phillies' first 50 games of a season since 1932, when Don Hurst also had 51.

Ibanez has 19 home runs and is on a pace to surpass his career-high of 33 home runs, his total in 2006 with Seattle. Manuel attributed the uptick in power to an escape from the Mariners' pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.

"When you play in Seattle, that kind of speaks for itself," the manager said. "Not only is that a big ballpark, but the ball doesn't carry well there."

Phanatic cameo

The Phillie Phanatic made a surprise appearance at Petco Park on Tuesday night, delighting the many Phillies fans in attendance and annoying the hometown crowd. The Phanatic, a native of the Galapagos Islands, does not speak to reporters, but his friend Tom Burgoyne said the mascot makes about one road trip a year.

Early exit for Victorino

Centerfielder Shane Victorino left last night's game in the sixth inning because of a left- hip strain. He will be reevaluated today, the team said.