As a misting rain fluttered from the sky above Citizens Bank Park, two hobbled superstars took turns fielding ground balls and making throws. One of them has a clear idea of when he might return to the lineup. The other is in a continual state of day-to-day.
While Chase Utley remains on track to return from thumb surgery sometime in the last week of August, Ryan Howard's immediate prognosis is still very much wait-and-see. The slugger is holding out hope that he will be ready to return from his sprained ankle on Tuesday, the earliest he can be activated from the disabled list.
But for that to happen, he will likely have to make significant progress over the next 4 days. Howard's work in the infield yesterday was his first since he went on the DL on Aug. 2, one day after landing awkwardly on second base in a win over the Nationals.
In April 2008, Jimmy Rollins missed 3 weeks with a sprained ankle that was initially labeled at Grade 1, which is the least severe type. Rollins took infield practice for the first time on April 25, but wasn't activated for another 14 days.
There is still some pain and swelling in the ankle, Howard said, although it continues to recede.
Does he really think he can be back by Tuesday?
"Yeah, I mean, if the pain is bearable and it goes down enough and we get a little bit more of the swelling out," said Howard. "I'll probably get downgraded to a flashing yellow [light] on the basepaths, but other than that, I think I'll be able to go out there and make some things happen."
That said . . .
"I'm not going to try to force it, because the worst thing you can do is try to come back before you are ready and just go back on the DL and mess it all up," he said. "I want to make sure it's cool, it's good enough to play, and then go out there and go play.
"I think the most important thing is trying to get ready for the stretch run coming down in September, and if it takes a little bit extra time, to make sure that it's 100 percent, I think they probably would rather me do that than try to force it and go straight back on the disabled list."
Manager Charlie Manuel was optimistic yesterday.
"He's doing real well," Manuel said. "He's coming along really good. It's just a matter of time."
The question now is how much time.
The battle-scarred Phillies enjoyed two positive developments yesterday: First, they activated centerfielder Shane Victorino from the disabled list a day sooner than expected. Then, they decided against putting first baseman Ross Gload on the DL.
Victorino was scheduled to make a third rehab start for Triple A Lehigh Valley last night, but his performance in his first two games (4-for-6 with a triple and a home run) convinced the Phillies to activate him.
"Everything's good," said Victorino, who strained an abdominal muscle during a win over the Diamondbacks on July 27.
Victorino, a switch-hitter who has a .916 OPS against lefties this year, wasn't in the lineup last night against Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw. Charlie Manuel said he had told reserve outfielder Ben Francisco the night before that he would be in the lineup, and that he did not want to go back on his word.
Gload looked like he was headed to the DL after pulling up lame while running the bases on a sixth-inning double in the Phillies' 2-0 win over the Dodgers on Wednesday night. But shortly after leaving the game with a strained right groin, Gload said he began to feel better.
"I thought it was worse than it was," Gload said. "It felt bad at the time. When I started walking off the field, it wasn't as bad as I thought."
The Phillies listed Gload as day-to-day.
"I don't know if it's tomorrow or the next day, but I'm not going to go on the DL," he said. "I'll go when they need me."
Because of Gload's uncertain status, the Phillies optioned lefty reliever Antonio Bastardo to Triple A to clear a roster spot for Victorino. The move will keep rookie outfielder Domonic Brown in the majors for the immediate future, although the Phillies sound inclined to send him down to resume regular playing time once they are healthy enough to do so.
"He's not a finished product yet, but that's OK," Manuel said. "He's going to be one of these days."