Phillies Notes: Good signs for Phils from Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard

Posted: July 05, 2012

NEW YORK - Roy Halladay threw a 56-pitch bullpen session Tuesday and Ryan Howard played at Lehigh Valley for the second day in a row - the first time he has done that since his rehabilitation assignment began Thursday.

For a team that entered Tuesday night 11 games behind in the division and eight back in the wild-card chase, that provided a ray of hope. The Phillies understand that to make the playoffs they will need the injured duo back to help them dig out of the hole they created in the first 81 games.

"There are no bigger two acquisitions," centerfielder Shane Victorino said. "There is nobody on the trade market that equals them. When we get them back, it makes everyone that much better. It makes the team better."

Neither is expected to return until after the all-star break. Then there will be 21/2 weeks of baseball before the July 31 trade deadline. If the Phillies don't want to become sellers, they have to show that they can win during that time.

"We need to start winning," manager Charlie Manuel said. "In the next three weeks, we better win some games. I look at our clubhouse, and our clubhouse is not panicking. We've got a few guys who might be trying too hard."

Halladay's session was an extended one, meaning he stopped and restarted to simulate rest between innings.

"He's building up," pitching coach Rich Dubee said.

Dubee believes that Halladay is on track for a return shortly after the all-star break. He is convinced that the strained muscle behind Halladay's right shoulder was the root of his 3.98 ERA in 11 starts.

"I don't know where he'll be when he gets back," Dubee said. "I hope he's close to what he used to be, yeah. But the signs are leading that he's doing very well."

Howard went 2 for 3 with a home run and four RBIs Tuesday night for the triple-A IronPigs, playing seven innings at first base.

"It's refreshing to know that they're on their way back," rightfielder Hunter Pence said. "There's a lot of optimism with those guys coming back. It's definitely a good feeling."

Lee still winless

Cliff Lee has a chance to pick up his first win on the mound Wednesday afternoon in the second game of the Phillies' three-game set with the Mets.

"Once he wins a game, things start going his way," Manuel said. "I still see the same stuff. His pitching is very close [to what it was before]. Things just happen in the games, and he hasn't been able to get a win. It's hard to get a win."

Lee's winless season is mystifying. It would defy all odds if Lee, a Cy Young Award winner, and owner of a minuscule 2.40 ERA last season, enters the break winless. Even Chad Qualls has a win. At this time last year, Lee had nine.

The lefthander was the victim of bad luck early in the season, but he has struggled mightily in his last four starts. His ERA has ballooned from 2.92 after a June 5 start against the Los Angeles Dodgers to its current 4.13.

Lee is averaging a strikeout an inning but has had trouble with two outs. In 26-plus innings with two outs, Lee has a 6.15 ERA. Is he losing his focus late in innings?

"I don't think so," Manuel said. "I think he's been around the National League quite a few times now and I think that they've seen him before, and I think that might be the reason. He just needs to make some adjustments and he'll be fine."

Minor-league kudos

First baseman Chris Duffy and righthander Lisalverto Bonilla were named the Phillies' minor-league hitter and pitcher of the month, respectively.

Duffy hit .420 for single-A Lakewood in June and took an 18-game hitting streak into Tuesday.

Bonilla struck out 24 batters in 182/3 innings during June for single-A Clearwater.

Kendrick goes Friday

Kyle Kendrick said he would start Friday against Atlanta after being pushed back in the rotation.

So Kendrick, Joe Blanton, and Vance Worley will start the final weekend before the break.

Contact Chad Graff at 215-854-4550 or Follow on Twitter @ChadGraff.

Staff writer Matt Gelb contributed to this article.

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