In the end, Sandberg went for the challenge and, after a 1-minute, 47-second review, Simmons was ruled out.
"I looked up at the scoreboard, fifth inning, and the way A.J. was pitching in an 0-0 game," he said. "If it's inconclusive, let's take a shot right there.
"It was one of those things, to use one before it gets too late before the seventh. The way he was pitching, a bloop right there or something, that could be a run. So it was worth the risk."
Sandberg said he didn't see Simmons' hand come off until after he got back to the bench.
In what was expected to be his final rehab outing, Cole Hamels went seven innings, giving up three hits and one run, on a home run, for Clearwater. The lefthander, who is recovering from left-biceps tendinitis, is scheduled to join the Phillies rotation next week in Los Angeles.
The pitch count
If Cliff Lee seemed unconcerned about throwing a career-high 128 pitches during his 1-0 loss to the Braves Wednesday night, he has good reason.
It was the 17th time in his career that he has logged at least 120 pitches in a game. One of the other times was during the final game of the 2006 season with Cleveland. In the 15 games he went to the mound in the same season following a 120-pitch or more outing, Lee is 10-2 with three no-decisions and a 2.10 earned run average.
That includes 11 starts in which he allowed two earned runs or fewer and five starts in which he did not allow a run.
"I felt strong on the last pitch and I felt strong on the first pitch," Lee said Wednesday. "That's what you want to do. You want to be a guy that they're going to let go back there after you've thrown 100-plus pitches and pitch the ninth inning. That's what I expect to do and I'm glad they allow me to do that. That's what I work in the offseason for and prepare my body to do, so it's not anything crazy to me."
Lee is scheduled to pitch again Monday against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
On to the West
The Phillies open a three-city, 10-game road trip Friday night against Colorado, with righthander Jonathan Pettibone (0-0, 1.80 ERA) going up against the Rockies' Tyler Chatwood (0-0, 6.00).
The Phillies' Kyle Kendrick (0-1, 3.50) will start Saturday night against Jordan Lyles (2-0, 4.32), and Roberto Hernandez (1-0, 3.86) will go in the series wrapup Sunday against Juan Nicasio (2-0. 3.50).