ALLENTOWN - Raul Ibanez said he was "feeling good" after taking the next step in his rehabilitation last night, starting in left field for the triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs at Coca-Cola Park.
The Phillies all-star, working his way back from a groin strain, went 1 for 2 with a walk in the IronPigs' 6-2 International League loss to the Pawtucket Red Sox. A day earlier, he had gone 0 for 2 with a walk for double-A Reading.
Ibanez played five innings for Reading on Monday and pronounced himself pain-free. He was in the lineup for seven innings against the PawSox.
The starting pitcher for Pawtucket was righthander Clay Buchholz, an International League all-star who entered the game with a 6-1 record and a 2.05 ERA. Buchholz caught Ibanez looking in the first inning, slipping a curveball past him on a 1-2 pitch.
In the fourth inning, Buchholz walked Ibanez on five pitches. Ibanez scored easily from second on a double by third baseman Terry Tiffee.
Ibanez swung at only one pitch his first two times up. Leading off Lehigh Valley's half of the sixth, Ibanez sent a grounder between the Red Sox' first and second basemen on a 0-2 pitch. He then was forced out at second base as he slid hard on the play.
In the top of the fifth, he had to chase down a double in the left-field corner by Pawtucket's Chris Carter.
"I got to run the bases a little bit, and I got to run around in the outfield a little bit," said Ibanez, who was unsure when he would return to the Phils. "I'm feeling good about it."
After a day off today, Ibanez could travel with the IronPigs tomorrow when they visit Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the New York Yankee's triple-A affiliate.
He could suit up with the parent club Friday, when the Phillies open a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Citizens Bank Park. Then comes the All-Star Game, in which Ibanez is expected to start in left field for the National League team.
The 37-year-old Ibanez, who has missed 18 games with the Phillies, was batting .312 with 22 home runs and 59 RBIs before he went on the disabled list June 18.
Earlier this week, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he wanted to see Ibanez get about 12 plate appearances before he rejoins the team.