NEW YORK - For weeks, Carlos Ruiz's right shoulder has not felt like it should.

The catcher said he first felt pain when the Phillies were in Atlanta from April 20 to 22. Ever since, it has hurt to throw. But he played through it.

Until Wednesday.

Ruiz was out of the lineup, with backup Brian Schneider replacing him. It was part of a different bottom of the order for Charlie Manuel, who started Ben Francisco in left field for Raul Ibanez, and Wilson Valdez at shortstop for Juan Castro.

Manuel said Ruiz has been banged up, but he didn't want to clarify what specifically was wrong - some gamesmanship on his part.

"He's banged up," Manuel said. "It's pretty tough for him to play right now."

The catcher said he hasn't felt good throwing the ball, but insisted he could make better throws than he has recently. Base stealers are 22 for 28 against Ruiz, a 21 percent caught-stealing rate, which is slightly below his career rate of 27 percent. The Mets stole three bases off Ruiz on Tuesday and he bounced a few throws to second.

Ruiz downplayed the injury. He said he is optimistic about the shoulder pain going away soon and hopes to play Thursday.

"I'm OK," Ruiz said. "I'll take a day. My arm doesn't feel that good."

Ruiz said he hasn't had an MRI exam and none was planned. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he did not foresee the shoulder soreness being a long-term issue.

But it appears as if the bangs and bruises are catching up with Ruiz. Since returning from a strained right knee that caused a three-game absence in mid-May, Ruiz is 2 for 21 (.095) at the plate.

Ruiz's batting average had climbed as high as .354 in May. He's now batting .295.

The catcher said he didn't think the shoulder injury was affecting him at the plate, but it was in the back of his mind.

"I took a couple days off and sometimes you don't feel the same way at the plate," Ruiz said. "I'm trying to get my swing back. I'm working real hard right now. You're not looking for excuses, but sometimes if you have something you think about with your body, it makes it harder.

"But I'm fine. I feel good. I'm doing my exercises and everything. Hopefully I feel better real quick."

Ruiz used a hockey-style catcher's mask for the first two innings of Tuesday's game. The hockey masks generally add more protection than regular masks.

By the third inning, Ruiz had switched to his traditional catcher's mask.

"I didn't like the way it felt," he said.

Happ not close

Lefthander J.A. Happ (left forearm strain) has taken baby steps toward a return to the Phillies' rotation with occasional bullpen sessions. He has yet to throw any of his breaking pitches and he still eventually needs to complete a rehab assignment.

Amaro said before Wednesday's game that Happ is nowhere near being ready.

"It's going to take him a while to get going again," Amaro said. "We have to try to get him over the hump of not having any soreness anymore. We don't have any timetable for Happ."

Amaro did say Happ could begin facing live hitters at the end of this week or early next week. He has been on the disabled list since April 13.

Pitching coach Rich Dubee said Happ would throw another bullpen session Thursday in Clearwater, Fla. He has yet to throw his cutter on the mound or even on flat ground. He threw change-ups for the first time in a bullpen session on Monday.

As for closer Brad Lidge (right elbow inflammation), Amaro and Dubee said they are pleased with his progress. Lidge could return next week in Atlanta.

"We'll see," Amaro said. "That would be fine with me."

Extra bases

Catcher Paul Hoover cleared waivers and was outrighted to triple-A Lehigh Valley. . . . Roy Halladay will make his next start opposite Marlins ace Josh Johnson on Saturday in Florida.

Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at 215-854-2928 or mgelb@phillynews.com.
Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/magelb.