ATLANTA - Those who have watched Jayson Werth transform from an anonymous sixth-year free agent into a bona fide middle-of-the-order power hitter have seen this before.
In fact, most people who have watched any amount of baseball have seen it.
Count Werth among them.
"I've been here before," the rightfielder said yesterday.
Nevertheless, Werth said he agreed with manager Charlie Manuel's decision to give him a second day off as he attempts to make some mechanical adjustments to his swing.
After hitting .327 with nine home runs and a league-leading 22 doubles in his first 44 games, Werth has gone hitless in his last five. He has also failed to reach base in any of those games, striking out 10 times in 17 at-bats.
Last year, Werth endured an 0-for-21 slump in late September but went on to hit nine home runs in his next 80 at-bats, including seven homers in the postseason.
"It comes and goes," said Werth, who is hitting .295 on the season. "It was pretty good there for a while. Check my spring training stats. They weren't very good. I came out of that.
"I had two or three spots last year that weren't as good. The problem is when you're playing every day it comes in bunches."
There is no simple answer for what he is doing wrong.
"Without getting technical, it would be hard" to explain, Werth said.
When someone jokingly pointed out that his problem is that he isn't making contact, he laughed and agreed.
"Not making contact is the problem," he said. "How hard is that?"
Given the struggles of both he and his teammates, the question is a rhetorical one.
Brad Lidge made his return to both the active roster and the playing field yesterday, pitching a scoreless eighth inning with the Phillies trailing, 9-3. He showed particularly good command of his slider, using the pitch to get Melky Cabrera to strike out and Martin Prado and Jason Heyward to ground out. Charlie Manuel said that he planned on easing Lidge back into the closer's role, although he said he did not plan on drawing out the process.
"My slider feels real good right now, especially being able to throw it in or out or down," said Lidge, who started the season on the disabled list and made a return trip with elbow soreness after four appearances. "That one thing for me that is obviously very important in my game and so far this year, my slider's been a lot better than last year."
Nelson Figueroa walked around the clubhouse and exchanged man-hugs with several of his teammates. The veteran righthander was designated for assignment to make room for Brad Lidge on the roster. Other teams will have until June 3 to pluck him off waivers. If nobody picks him up, he will have the choice of either accepting an assignment to the minors or becoming a free agent.
Figueroa did not entirely rule out the possibility of accepting an assignment.
"I do know the situation here, which is good to know from the inside," Figueroa said. "You never know what it's like somewhere else. The grass isn't always greener. I've been a part of that before. I really like this clubhouse and the staff."
That being said, he later added, "I would imagine a guy with my experience and ability that I've done all I had to do 10 times over at the Triple A level."
Charlie Manuel said he wouldn't know when third baseman Placido Polanco is able to play again until he returns to the team, likely today. An MRI on his sore left elbow Sunday revealed no structural damage, but he had a cortisone shot to relieve the soreness that has plagued him . . . Third baseman Greg Dobbs, who started for Polanco, went 0-for-2 with a walk and now has three hits in his last 36 at-bats.