ALLENTOWN - It looks like Phillies fans will not have to wait much longer to continue their Rauuuuuuuul chants at Citizens Bank Park.
Raúl Ibañez, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list on June 18 with a left groin strain, finished his three-game rehab stint at triple-A Lehigh Valley last night as the IronPigs beat the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, 6-3, at Coca-Cola Park.
Ibañez looked ready for the big leagues.
The 37-year-old started in left field and played nine innings. Ibañez finished the night 1 for 3 with a double, two walks, two RBIs and a strikeout from the three hole. In three minor-league games, including one at double-A Reading, Ibañez went 2 for 7 with two RBIs and three walks.
According to Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, the first-time all-star could return to the lineup as early as tonight, when the Phillies begin a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"We'll see how he does and we'll go from there," Manuel said before last night's 9-6 win over Cincinnati. "I would like to get him in two games over the weekend."
Ibañez expects to be in left field for the Phillies tonight.
"I think that's the plan," Ibañez said. "I expect to play well and try to help the team tomorrow."
Ibañez saw three pitches in his first at-bat against Yankees starter and former Orioles righthander Josh Towers. He hit a deep fly ball to left-center field for the inning's second out.
In the third inning, with two on and two out, Ibañez laced a 1-0 fastball from Towers off the right-field wall, easily jogging into second for a two-run double. The two-bagger, which plated Lou Marson and Jason Ellison to tie the score at 2, was held in the park by a gust of wind blowing from right to left.
In the eighth inning with a runner on second, Ibañez met his match. The lefty struck out swinging on a 3-2 change-up from righthander Edwar Ramirez to end the IronPigs' four-run inning.
"I'm pleased about the amount of pitches that I saw and going deep into counts . . . kind of swinging through some off-speed pitches," Ibañez said. "Seeing a lot of pitches is good." He said he was also pleased about running the bases without any pain.
Out in the field, Ibañez was not tested much. In the second inning, back-to-back hard-hit balls off IronPigs starter Gustavo Chacin were hit right at Ibañez. In the eighth, he could not get to a foul ball in front of the tarp down the left-field line.
Ibañez, who has missed 20 games with the Phillies, was batting .312 with 22 home runs and 59 RBIs before landing on the DL. Even with the disabled-list stint, he was voted into Tuesday's All-Star Game as a starter by the fans.
He said if all goes well this weekend, he expects to play in the Midsummer Classic.