One decision Charlie Manuel can now delay; the other, day-to-day.

Injured closer Tom Gordon was scheduled to throw yesterday for the first time since hitting the disabled list May 2, but he reported to Citizens Bank Park yesterday with a 104-degree fever, nausea and diarrhea. He was immediately sent to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where he was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection.

He was admitted for observation overnight. He could remain at the hospital through the weekend, general manager Pat Gillick said on Comcast SportsNet's "Daily News Live."

When Gordon returns, Manuel will have to decide whether he or replacement Brett Myers will be the closer.

"I don't have to make that decision now, do I?" Manuel asked.

Gordon received a cortisone shot in his right shoulder May 3 and was progressing nicely, pitching coach Rich Dubee said. He is eligible to come off the DL on Thursday, but likely will need another 5 days or so.

National League MVP Ryan Howard's progress is less promising.

Howard yesterday had two MRI exams, which revealed nothing surprising, so he will not go on the DL yet. The MRI on his sprained left knee, suffered April 18, showed no structural damage, but did show a bone bruise.

The MRI on his strained left thigh also showed nothing more than an expected hematoma. He initially suffered the injury in spring training and aggravated it several times, most recently May 4 in San Francisco. Howard did not start in four of the next five games, the thinking being that rest would help him heal.

He did not start last night, either, though he was available to pinch-hit.

"That's more of a day-to-day thing," Gillick said.

The injuries have played a part in Howard's .204 batting average.

The decision to sit Howard last night was made easier for Manuel because lefthander Rich Hill started for the Cubs. Howard is hitting .122 (5-for-41) with 22 strikeouts against lefthanders. Lefty Ted Lilly starts tomorrow for the Cubs.

Manuel also indicated Howard would not start today against righthander Angel Guzman.

For now, Howard is content to wait and is relieved the news wasn't worse.

"It does feel better," said Howard, who, with the off day Thursday, could go 7 days without a start. "You know what's going on. I don't think it was anything different from what they originally thought."

There was promising news for the Phillies as well.

Middle reliever Ryan Madson, felled May 4 by a nagging left oblique strain, completed a full workout regimen and threw off flat ground for the first time yesterday since receiving a cortisone shot in the muscle last week.

"It felt incredible," Madson said.

He said that, barring setbacks, he expects to throw off flat ground twice more, throw off the mound twice, then head to Double A Reading to pitch in a couple of rehab outings. He hopes to come off DL by May 22, in time for the Phillies' road trip to Florida and Atlanta.

Also, starter Jon Lieber said the cut on the tip of his right middle finger, suffered Wednesday when he was cutting food, should be fine by tomorrow, when he is scheduled to start. Lieber initially was scheduled to start last night, but he was pushed back 2 days when he cut himself.

Looking further into the future, righthanded starter Scott Mathieson, on the DL since September after undergoing Tommy John surgery, rejoined the team yesterday from rehabbing at the minor league complex in Florida.

Mathieson, 23, will throw a bullpen session today, his first since the surgery. He is in town to throw in front of Dubee and trainer Scott Sheridan – and to get a mental break from the monotony of a remote recovery.

"We get to see his progression," Dubee said. "And rehab is a long, draining process. This lets him get out of Florida. A week out of isolation."

"It's awesome," said Mathieson, who will return to Florida next week.

He is considered the organization's top starter prospect. A Double A call-up last year to bolster a strapped rotation, he went 1-4 with a 7.47 earned run average in nine games, including eight starts. His return is slated for August. *