WASHINGTON - Charlie Manuel's 22d different lineup in 27 games was posted in the Phillies clubhouse and some players stared at it longer than others. Placido Polanco was around the corner and down the stairs in the batting cage with hitting coach Greg Gross.
Polanco was Manuel's new No. 3 hitter in a never-ending quest to find production from the spot, which is traditionally reserved for a team's best hitter.
"What's interesting about that?" Manuel said. "I hit him third before quite a bit."
The manager had, for 28 games in 2011 - mostly in May. That experiment was abandoned once Chase Utley returned for good last June.
The Phillies could use a healthy Utley in his customary spot. Entering Friday, the Phillies had the least production from the three hole in the National League. A .588 OPS from the spot was equaled only by Washington, which has its share of offensive anemia. The Phillies' three hitters - Jimmy Rollins, Hunter Pence, and Shane Victorino - had managed only five extra-base hits in the season's first 26 games. The first home run by a No. 3 hitter came Thursday in the form of a Victorino two-run shot.
Utley will join the Phillies on Saturday and practice with the team. It will end his five-week stay in Arizona, where he trained with a physical therapist to strengthen his chronically injured knees.
But there is still plenty of work to be done before Utley can do more than practice with his teammates. Assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said Utley could go to Clearwater, Fla., sometime next week to expand his baseball activities and effectively begin spring training. But that is dependent on a positive examination by team doctors. They have yet to see Utley.
Hours before Friday's first pitch, Roy Halladay walked to left field at Nationals Park. He was absent Thursday, one day after a disastrous eight-run outing, to tend to a personal matter.
He was back at work Friday and threw a bullpen session without problem. Halladay will start Monday, as expected, against the Mets. Halladay's one-day leave was not injury-related. He informed the team a day before his start he would need to leave Thursday.
Another closer's pain
When Jonathan Papelbon arrived at his first spring training with the Phillies in February, he referred to Mariano Rivera as "the godfather of closers." He considers Rivera a mentor after their years of competition in the American League East.
Not surprisingly, Papelbon was distraught when asked about the news of the Yankees closer's torn ACL that ended his season.
"It's really hard to even comprehend it. Or talk about it," Papelbon said. "He's someone you obviously respect and have competed against for so many years. You just don't want to see it happen that way. It's hard to even fathom."
Papelbon said Rivera's best piece of advice came during the 2006 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh. "He told me, 'Pap, no memory. Short memory.'"
Watching Rivera talk about his injury was the most disturbing image, Papelbon said.
"Any human being who has any kind of heart," Papelbon said, "or has been in this game for any period of time - whether it is one day or 20 years - understands where he's coming from and can feel his heart in the interview, man."
Cliff Lee will throw another bullpen session Saturday, pitching coach Rich Dubee said. If all goes well, he could slide back into the rotation Wednesday. . . . Pete Orr started Friday at second base for the fourth time in seven games. Manuel said Freddy Galvis would play Saturday. "Freddy has been struggling," Manuel said. "But at the same time, I'm definitely not away from Freddy."