THE MOST unsettling part for the Phillies had to be the uncertainty when they waited for the results of an MRI that was scheduled to be conducted late yesterday evening. As of the end of the team's 8-7 loss to the Blue Jays, the only definite about the ailing left groin of Raul Ibanez was that it would sideline the star leftfielder for at least the 15 days he is required to be on the disabled list.
"I'm always pretty confident that it can be fixed," said Ibanez, who is hitting .312 with 22 home runs and 59 RBI. "So I think it will be fixed. That's me talking."
Hopeful, rather than confident, is the word that best fit the rhetoric of Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. when he briefed reporters on the injury yesterday morning.
Ibanez is eligible to return on July 3.
"We'll find out as he goes through his rehab and does the things he needs to do to get it calmed down," Amaro said. "We'll monitor him. We'll monitor him every day and see how he feels and hopefully he'll heal properly and be ready in 15 days. That's the plan, that'd be great, but I don't know if that's going to happen."
Ibanez had been suffering from pain in the groin since April, but only recently did it affect his play. He missed Sunday's game with what the team described as a sore Achilles' that resulted from ill-fitting cleats. But Amaro said yesterday that Ibanez was suffering from a sore groin and a sore Achilles', the latter of which was a minor condition that has cleared up.
Ibanez returned to the field for the start of the three-game series against the Blue Jays, but was noticeably hampered in the field and on the basepaths.
He was 0-for-8 in the first two games of the series, and was 16-for-63 since the beginning of a seven-game West Coast road trip earlier this month, when he says the injury started to worsen.
"Everything was starting to get affected," he said. "I wasn't helping the team. It was probably the right thing to do at the right time."
Ibanez was hesitant at first to go on the disabled list. But Amaro and the Phillies' medical staff told him that he risked doing serious damage and missing a "very, very long time" if he continued to play on the injury.
"It was the right time, and they talked sense into me," said Ibanez, who has never appeared in an All-Star Game but leads all National League outfielders in voting this season. "They know more than I do when it comes to medical stuff. It's better to lose a little time now than it is in August or September. I guess this isn't the worse-case scenario."
The good news is that the Phillies will play six games next week in American League cities, which will enable them to use both left-handed hitters Greg Dobbs and Matt Stairs against righthanded pitchers. The other good news is that Ibanez' likely replacement against lefthanders, rookie outfielder John Mayberry Jr., went 2-for-5 with a home run against the Blue Jays yesterday.
But what the team hopes is the best news has yet to come - a potential return date for their first-half MVP.
Brad Lidge could begin a rehab assignment at Double A Reading as soon as today, provided that his right knee does not show any ill effects from a 42-pitch bullpen session at Citizens Bank Park yesterday. Shortly after the session, his second since being placed on the disabled list with right knee inflammation last week, Lidge said he felt no pain in the knee while pushing off the rubber.
The condition had hampered him since April, leading the Phillies to place him on the DL after noticing a drop in his velocity and a flattening of his slider during a loss to the Dodgers on June 6 in which he blew a one-run, ninth-inning lead. Lidge initially disagreed with the decision, believing he could pitch through the condition, and he admitted yesterday that the Phillies will be the ones who determine whether he is healthy enough to return to the active roster Tuesday, when he is eligible to be activated.
"I'm going to be feeling like I'm ready to go no matter how these rehab outings go," said Lidge, who is 0-3 with a 7.27 ERA and 13 saves in 19 chances. "That being said, they are going to have to look at how these games go. They are going to want to see, I wouldn't necessarily say results are essential down there, but [pitching] stuff, and if it looks like I really am pushing off using my back leg, and if it's hurting me. And I think the hitters will give indication too of where my stuff is at and where I'm at.
"But it would be hard for me to give an honest evaluation, I would agree with you, based on the fact that I am pretty anxious to get back here. At the same time, I'll know also if I get down there and I am pushing off and I feel like the ball is going everywhere, and I'm just pushing off in order to get velocity and don't have any control, then I have to be honest with myself that it might need to be a few outings."
Lidge said he is hopeful that he will pitch in Reading tonight and Sunday, then accompany the Phillies to a three-game series at Tampa Bay that starts Tuesday. If another rehab appearance was necessary, he could make the drive from Tampa to Clearwater to pitch for the organization's Class A club.
Amaro acknowledged that a rehab stint is possible this weekend, although he will know more today.
"We're not going to put him on the mound unless he's 100 percent and he feels like he absolutely has no soreness in there," Amaro said. "Because, again, it doesn't make sense for us to rush him unless he feels 100 percent."