READING - Shane Victorino didn't have a rewarding night at the plate in his first of three rehab starts at Double A Reading last night, but it was gratifying in several other ways.

Victorino, who has been sidelined with a strained right hamstring, went 0-for-4 over nine innings in Reading's 4-3 win over the Akron Aeros, but he apparently feels very comfortable about his next 2 days with the Phillies' affiliate before he returns to the parent club Friday against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. Victorino went on the 15-day disabled list May 19 after he was hurt May 14 in a 5-3 loss at Atlanta.

"I felt great out there," said the Phillies' starting centerfielder, who was hitting .284 with six homers and 19 RBI at the time he went on the DL. "As time progresses, I will feel better. I know my timing will come around.

"I know I haven't hit well, but the more pitches I see, the better. They [Aeros] had a pitcher who was throwing in the 90s at my last at-bat, and that was nice to see."

Victorino led off the first and hit a 3-1 pitch that was a high chopper to third. He showed no signs of slowness as he made his way to first before he was thrown out. In the third, Victorino hit a grounder to short and was safe at first on a fielder's choice. He took off toward second on a 0-2 pitch, but was thrown out on a relatively close play. During his third at-bat, in the fifth, he hit a bouncer to third, but was thrown out on a routine play. During his final at-bat, in the seventh, Victorino was called out on strikes.

In his first two rehab starts, at Class A Lakewood Saturday and Sunday, Victorino started in centerfield and went 1-for-6 overall with two RBI and two strikeouts.

"I definitely feel a lot better than I did over the weekend," he said. "Physically, I feel great. I thought I had a good jump on the stolen-base attempt and didn't have any pain. Playing nine and doing different things was an experience. I also had more action in the outfield and felt like I had a good jump on balls tonight. I pride myself on my defense and felt good throughout the game."

Victorino made a running catch in left-center off a line drive in the second. He caught a sinking liner on one leg in center in the third and fired a strike to first to double up the runner there. In the eighth, Victorino ran down a line drive and caught it at the base of the wall, which he hit with his right leg.

It was his first-ever appearance at First Energy Stadium and he played before a crowd of a little more than 6,300 on the muggy night. After the final out, as he made his way toward his postgame interview, Victorino was greeted by several hundred fans.

"To me, it's great," he said. "There are so many people who don't get a chance to see us in Philadelphia. It was exciting to see everyone and know that they appreciate us. It's nice to hear some fans rearranged their schedule to come here.

"The atmosphere is different in the [batter's] box because I can't study pitchers here. But baseball is baseball, and I just have to work on my hitting and timing."

Victorino plans to be back in the leadoff spot for the R-Phils today and tomorrow, but won't have much time to rest. Reading is scheduled to play at 2:05 p.m. today and 9:30 a.m. tomorrow.

"The 9:30 game might be a wakeup call, but I knew that before I came," he said. "I don't feel like I have any setbacks, and I'll have two more games to fine-tune things." *