PHOENIX - A day after first baseman Ryan Howard admitted that a few days off might help his strained left thigh and his sprained left knee, he got them.

He might get quite a few more.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel yesterday met with Howard and trainer Scott Sheridan. The three determined that Howard, hitting .198 through 32 games, should not start any of the three games of the series that began here last night.

That would give Howard 4 days off, since the team does not play Thursday.

No determination on putting Howard on the 15-day disabled list has been made. He will be examined by team physician Dr. Michael Ciccotti before Friday's game in Philadelphia.

Last night, Howard seemed accepting of a possible DL stint.

"We'll wait and see how it goes down," Howard said. "In a couple of days hopefully it'll feel better. If not . . . "

This is something Howard has considered since he aggravated the thigh strain trying to score from second in San Francisco on Friday.

Before the Phillies played the Giants on Sunday, the reigning National League MVP said: "Right now, my leg and everything like that - I can't get comfortable. It's tough to get it where it feels good."

Asked if rest would help, Howard replied, "Maybe it would."

Before last night's game, a tight-lipped Howard took his usual fielding practice and batting practice but was resigned to his fate as a spectator. He apparently was available to pinch hit, although he would be replaced immediately by a pinch-runner and would not play the field.

"Hopefully, it'll be rested," Howard said. "Hopefully, it'll be better."

It wasn't better after Sunday's game.

"It felt all right. About the same," said.

Howard initially strained his left thigh March 1.

He sprained his left knee April 18 in Washington and missed the next three games. Entering last night, Howard was hitting .184 (9-for-49) with 21 strikeouts since hurting his knee.

The Phillies, who were off to a 3-10 start, resisted putting Howard on the DL when he hurt his knee. If they had, he would have been eligible to come off Thursday.

Now, they will hope he bounces back at the end of a 10-game road trip.

"We want to give Howard a rest to see if we can get his aches and pains well; things that have been bothering him, like his quad and knee," Manuel said. "We want to see if we can get him 100 percent. Right now, it's better to get him well."

Right now, Howard isn't exactly helping the team.

He hit his fifth homer of the season and drove in his 18th and 19th runs on Sunday, but he remained far off the pace to come close to his 2006 numbers, when he hit .313 with 58 homers and 149 RBI.

Howard, a lefty, also was just 5-for-40 with 22 strikeouts against lefthanders this season. He hit .279 against lefties last season. The Diamondbacks started lefthander Doug Davis last night and will start lefthander Randy Johnson tomorrow.

Howard said he has had having trouble settling into his wide, low batting stance since he strained his quad. He said his knee improves daily.

Manuel said the Phillies won't mess around anymore with Howard's health.

"It's gotten to the point where I figure if we can, it's time to get him completely healthy where he feels 100 percent like he can feel good about doing his job," Manuel said.

Last night, Howard didn't feel good about not being able to fully do his job for the next few days.

Regular third baseman Wes Helms started at first base. Abraham Nunez replaced Helms at third.

Injury updates

Closer Tom Gordon, on the DL with an inflamed right rotator cuff, was examined by Dr. Michael Ciccotti yesterday, 5 days after receiving a cortisone shot in his shoulder. Gordon was much better, according to a team spokesman, although he will still have an MRI on the shoulder today. He will not try to throw until Friday at the earliest, then would need a couple of rehab appearances. He is eligible to come off the DL on May 17.

Closer , on the DL with an inflamed right rotator cuff, was examined by yesterday, 5 days after receiving a cortisone shot in his shoulder. Gordon was much better, according to a team spokesman, although he will still have an MRI on the shoulder today. He will not try to throw until Friday at the earliest, then would need a couple of rehab appearances. He is eligible to come off the DL on May 17.

Gordon, 39, missed 3 weeks in August with a shoulder injury. He missed a week in March when he received a shot in his right elbow, the second straight spring in which he needed that procedure.

Gordon has blown three of five save opportunities this season. Former No. 1 starter Brett Myers, who went to the bullpen April 18, entered last night 2-for-2 in save chances.

Myers originally went to the bullpen to be the setup man, the job Ryan Madson held entering the season. Madson landed on the 15-day DL on Saturday with a left oblique strain he pitched through since spring training.

Exams yesterday by Ciccotti revealed no tear. Madson might be cleared to throw Friday. *