Ben Francisco likes to drive, so the 6-hour ride he took from Cleveland to Philadelphia last month wasn't as arduous as it might seem.

Probably not the ideal way to spend his first off day with a new team, but painless in the grand scheme of things. His belongings stuffed into his car and a new apartment awaiting in Center City, his former Indians team disappearing into the rearview, the 27-year-old outfielder finally began to feel like a Phillie.

"I feel good now," said Francisco, who was acquired along with ace lefthander Cliff Lee in the six-player trade the Phillies completed in the last week of July. "I feel comfortable here - my new home. I'm liking it here."

The feeling is mutual. Mananger Charlie Manuel said early on that Francisco would get plenty of chances to play, despite an outfield that features three National League All-Stars, and thus far he appears to have been telling the truth. Last night, Francisco was in the starting lineup for the seventh time in 16 games since the trade, this time providing Raul Ibanez with a day off in leftfield. Already, Francisco has played all three outfield positions and hit two home runs, the second of which provided the game-winning run in the top of the 12th of a 4-3 victory over the Cubs on Aug. 11.

After going hitless in his first two at-bats as a pinch-hitter, he knocked a double into rightfield in the eighth inning of a 3-2 win over the Braves last Friday.

"That's big, but at the same time, he has to play some, and the more he plays, the better he can show how he can help us," Manuel said. "We got better when we got Ben. I feel that way."

Last night, he hit a two-run single in the first inning off lefthander Doug Davis to give the Phillies an early 3-0 lead.

Francisco's versatility has been important for the Phillies. His first three starts came in place of centerfielder Shane Victorino, who was nursing a bruised knee. Since then, he has played primarily in leftfield in place of Ibanez, who spent a stint on the disabled list with a strained groin and whom the Phillies would like to rest whenever possible.

"You always want to play," said Francisco, who started 83 games and hit .250 with 10 home runs for the Indians before the trade. "They told me I was going to come over here and play. I kind of knew it wouldn't be as much as I was playing in Cleveland, but I was expecting to get some at-bats."

Ibanez rests

With Ben Francisco starting in leftfield, Raul Ibanez began last night's game on the bench. The 37-year-old veteran is hitting just .239 with a .310 on-base percentage and five home runs in 31 games since returning to the lineup on July 11. In 62 games prior, he was hitting .312 with a .371 on-base percentage and 22 home runs. While Ibanez appears to be running less smoothly than he did before suffering a strained groin, manager Charlie Manuel said yesterday that the leftfielder insists he is healthy.

"He doesn't really want to sit down," Manuel said. "But I give him a blow because I don't want to get him real tired, because I think the type of injury he has, that's when it can recur, when he's tired and fatigued and things. But he says it doesn't bother him, it doesn't hurt, and he does a different exercise routine now where he stretches a lot and works on strengthening his legs, but he says he doesn't feel anything right now."

Ibanez has four hits and 14 strikeouts in his last 33 at-bats. Manuel said the problem comes down to timing.

"All of a sudden, he's having to rush to catch up [to the ball]," Manuel said. "He's been behind. He's been late. I think it is a balance and rhythm thing. I think it's just a matter of time before he gets it. He'll get it back."

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