WASHINGTON - Freddy Galvis wasn't in the lineup, so he wanted some extra work. He pulled a Phillies windbreaker over his head, grabbed his bat and glove, and headed for the underground batting cage. But in the hallway, he passed hitting coach Greg Gross.

"I just finished there," Gross said.

Galvis smiled.

"OK," Gross said. "Let's go."

So Gross flipped Galvis some balls and watched him practice his swing. Galvis was on the bench for the fifth time in the last nine games, but Charlie Manuel said he remains committed to the 22-year-old Venezuelan.

Right now, Galvis is too much of a liability at the plate, and that has the manager rethinking how he handles the rookie. Galvis was 4 for his last 31 entering Sunday.

"If we're going to keep him in the big leagues, we have to play him some," Manuel said. "He has to get at-bats. How many, I don't know. He would have to play some. We couldn't just sit him on the bench. He's still in that development stage."

Galvis carried a .516 OPS into Sunday, which ranked ninth-worst in baseball among players with at least 80 plate appearances. (Jimmy Rollins ranked 13th-worst with a .533 OPS.)

Can the second baseman develop at the major-league level?

"I think he can," Manuel said. "If you have a couple days when you get some hits, you might see some difference in him. Freddy is a good player. He has improved his hitting from last year. He still needs some improvement. And he will. I believe in him. I think he will definitely improve."

The issue could be solved within a month should Chase Utley return. Manuel has openly spoken about his idea of using Galvis as a utility player later in the season because Utley and Rollins will need regular rest. He appears to have softened on that stance.

"It might be hard for him to get a lot of playing time," Manuel said.

Ineffective Contreras

Jose Contreras has pitched seven times in his return from elbow surgery. Six times, the 40-year-old righty has allowed a baserunner.

Thirteen of the 28 batters he's faced have reached base. Pitching coach Rich Dubee believes Contreras is healthy - the velocity readings indicate as much - but there is an element of rust. He has a 9.53 ERA in 52/3 innings.

"I've seen velocity," Dubee said. "He has too much plate at times and some flatness at times. There are a bunch of different variables. You can't just nail one thing down and say, 'This is it.' "

What can be expected of Contreras?

"Time will tell," Dubee said.

Howard to hit

Ryan Howard has spent a week in Florida as he effectively resumes spring training. He will swing a bat for the first time since the end of February sometime this week, assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said.

In the meantime, Howard is doing cardiovascular exercises, core strengthening, a throwing program, and taking ground balls.

He should progress aggressively, Proefrock said.

"The issue has never been the Achilles," Proefrock said. "It's been the infection and the wound. As long as he's been cleared to do that, there is no reason why he can't do other cardio activities."

Extra bases

The Phillies will have to make a roster move before Wednesday's game when Cliff Lee is activated from the disabled list. Kyle Kendrick will slide to the bullpen, where he was available beginning Sunday. Both Joe Savery and Michael Schwimer have options, but Brian Sanches does not. He must clear waivers to be sent down.

Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @magelb.