WASHINGTON - It had been 41 days since Roy Oswalt threw more than 100 pitches in a game, but his removal after five innings Wednesday had nothing to do with pitch count. Charlie Manuel saw a middling offense load the bases with two outs in the sixth and went for broke.
That meant pinch-hitting for Oswalt, who allowed two runs in five innings. The pitcher sauntered from the on-deck circle and dragged his bat to the visitors dugout, not exactly enamored with the idea of being finished.
After the 2-1 loss to the Nationals, Oswalt was asked if he thought he would be pinch-hit for.
"No," he said.
Was he frustrated by the move?
"That's their decision," he said.
Manuel did not exactly need to defend the decision; the Phillies barely mustered any chances against Washington pitching, and loading the bases was one the manager could not pass up.
"I figured it might be the last chance we had," Manuel said.
He used Domonic Brown to pinch-hit, and the rookie was robbed by Laynce Nix on a spectacular diving catch. Oswalt said he watched from the dugout tunnel.
The righthander threw 79 pitches in five innings and showed more signs of regaining his arm strength in his fourth start back from a long injury and tornado layoff.
"My strength is back; velocity's getting back to where I want it to be," Oswalt said. "I felt pretty well today. They hit some ground balls back through the infield today and some flares here and there. I think they hit one ball hard that went out of the park, but other than that, I'm coming back pretty well."
In his four starts since coming off the disabled list, Oswalt has a 1.96 ERA. He has not pitched more than seven innings in any of the outings and has failed to strike out more than three batters in a game - the longest such streak of his 11-year career.
But the results are there, even if Oswalt has not pitched as deep into games as he'd like. Wednesday's exit was through no fault of his own.
"He's the manager of the team, and I don't really question too much of that," Oswalt said. "It's the first time I've been taken out at 79 pitches unless I was hurt, but we'll see how it goes next game."
Shane Victorino (strained right hamstring) played in his fourth rehab game and went 1 for 3 with a solo home run for double-A Reading. The centerfielder will play in one more game at Reading - a 9:35 a.m. breakfast special on Thursday. He will serve as designated hitter.
Victorino then will meet the Phillies in Pittsburgh on Friday to be activated as long as there are no unforeseen setbacks. That means Manuel, who has filled out 37 different batting orders in 56 games, will have his regular eight players on the field for the first time all season.
"It's going to be good," Manuel said. "It's going to make us better."
The corresponding roster move could come down to Rule 5 infielder Michael Martinez or outfielder John Mayberry Jr., who has an option remaining.
Righthander Drew Naylor, a member of the 40-man roster, underwent Tommy John surgery Tuesday. He will miss at least a year. Naylor, 25, had a 4.63 ERA in 26 starts for double-A Reading last season. He is the second minor-leaguer on the 40-man roster to require season-ending surgery. The other was infielder Harold Garcia, who suffered a torn knee ligament. . . . The Phillies were in sole possession of first place on May 1 and June 1 for just the sixth season since 1900. The previous five instances: 1900, 1964, 1993, 2001, and 2008.