CHARLIE MANUEL isn't exactly ready to say he told you so just yet, but if Jon Lieber can give him a few more decent starts, those words won't be too far from rolling off his tongue.
Lieber, who began the season in the bullpen, much to his displeasure, made his fourth quality start of the season, allowing three runs and striking out a season-high seven through seven-plus innings in last night's 5-3 win over Toronto at Citizens Bank Park.
Manuel believes the move he made a month ago that sent Brett Myers to the 'pen in favor of Lieber is starting to pay off.
"I don't look back at that move as a panic move at all," Manuel said. "I think it was a move that made our pitching staff better.
"It was hard for me to accept Lieber out of the bullpen, because he had never pitched there, and in some ways, I know he didn't feel right pitching there."
It was obviously hard for Lieber, too. Since his move to the bullpen and then back to the starting rotation, Lieber pretty much has been mute about his performance on the mound this season.
Lieber gave up a homer to Blue Jays designated hitter Matt Stairs in the eighth inning. Many of the 34,723 in attendance wondered why Lieber, who threw 113 pitches, was still in the game after getting through a seventh inning in which he gave up a two-run home run to second baseman Aaron Hill.
Lieber wasn't among them.
"I'm not surprised I was still in there. I'm never surprised about anything. I just go until I can't go no more," said Lieber, who improved to 2-2 with an earned run average of 3.00.
Blue Jays starting pitcher Dustin McGowan was virtually untouchable through the first four innings, allowing only a walk to Shane Victorino.
But his miseries began in the fifth after he walked Pat Burrell to start the inning. Greg Dobbs got the Phillies' first hit of the night, sending a line drive to rightfield. After loading the bases on a walk to Wes Helms, McGowan walked Lieber to score Burrell and give the Phillies a 1-0 lead.
It was Lieber's first RBI since June 2, 2005, against the Giants, when he recorded an RBI double.
Aaron Rowand kept the rally going with a single to shortstop that scored Dobbs. A wild pitch brought in Lieber and moved up Rowand and Victorino, whose single drove in Helms.
A sacrifice fly to center by Jimmy Rollins scored Rowand and gave the Phillies a 5-0 lead.
"That's about all the offense we [produced], but I think that was enough," Manuel said.
Brett Myers recorded his fifth save, loading the bases with two outs in the ninth on a pair of walks and a double. Myers was able to work his way out of the jam, thanks to Alex Rios' chopper to third baseman Abraham Nuñez, who barely threw him out to end the game.
Because Myers seems to be adjusting to his new role much better than Lieber had been, it has not only made life easier for Manuel, it has given the back of the bullpen a strong arm that could have an impact on 60 games, instead of 35, according to Manuel.
Despite being the talk of many offseason trade rumors, Lieber doesn't appear to be going anywhere any time soon.
It's exactly the way Manuel pictured it, right?
"I'm glad he's still here," Manuel said. "I think that he wants to prove to everybody how good he is and show what he can do. He's determined to win some games for us."
He got the win last night and Phils are back at .500.
Ryan Howard, who has been taking batting practice daily since going on the disabled list Sunday, is scheduled to begin his rehab assignment Wednesday in Lakewood, where he will serve as the designated hitter for the Class A Blue Claws. Howard will join the Phillies on Friday in Atlanta . . . First-base coach Davey Lopes is expected to rejoin the team by Monday after missing the past two games because of personal reasons. *