CHICAGO -- The Phillies' bullpen received a boost on Tuesday, when Chad Durbin was brought off the disabled list, marking the first time all season that the 'pen has been at full strength.
To create a roster spot, Nelson Figueroa was designated for assignment. It was a tough break for Figueroa, as he had pitched well for the Phillies, amassing a 3.46 ERA over 26 innings of work.
In every game, the Phillies have been missing at least one reliever between Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge, Durbin and J.C. Romero, but now they are all finally together.
Durbin looks forward to the boost this will give the team.
"Guys will be able to throw in roles that they're used to and comfortable with," Durbin said. "I think that's most of the battle when it comes to a bullpen, bringing guys in in comfortable situations so they are not in pressure."
Durbin, for his part, is coming off a strained hamstring that he claims does not have any wear and tear.
"Not that I can tell," Durbin said. "But hamstrings are fickle."
The move to designate Figueroa was made with a heavy heart by Charlie Manuel, as he thought that Figueroa was simply the victim of a numbers game.
"I understand exactly how Figgy feels," Manuel said. "Figgy's pitched great. He's done a good job for us, and of course he's worked hard to make a Major League team and be in the big leagues. When you do pretty good, you feel pretty good about yourself and you're on a winning team and everything. He wanted to stay in the Major Leagues. I understand all about that. He did a good job for us."
Polanco, Utley easing toward returns
CHICAGO -- The Phillies infield is taking the first stride in getting back to full health for the team's stretch run. Thursday, Placido Polanco began a rehab stint in Clearwater, Fla., and Chase Utley had the cast taken off his right thumb.
Polanco is expected to join the Phillies in Chicago before the end of this four-game set against the Cubs, and Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is cautiously optimistic.
"He might be," Manuel said. "We'll see. He might join us in a couple days -- hopefully will. We'll see how it goes."
As for Utley, his timetable is far more fluid. Some expect him to be back before the eight-week timetable, which was laid out by team doctors. Manuel will be ready to play him whenever he is fully healthy.
"I don't want to send any kind of message," Manuel said. "I definitely want him back more for being back. I want him to be ready and back. I don't want him to come back too quick. He definitely won't come back too late."
Halladay receiving extended rest
CHICAGO -- Roy Halladay got Thursday off after pitching in Tuesday's All-Star Game, but the decision to hold him until Sunday after only pitching two-thirds of an inning appeared to be a cautious move.
"So many games he's gone into the eighth inning throwing 116, 120 pitches," said manager Charlie Manuel. "He's had seven complete games. That's way more than anybody else. They were talking about [Ubaldo] Jimenez finishing three at the All-Star break."
In some sense, Halladay is getting these three days off as a break after the All-Star break.
"He's pitched a lot," Manuel said. "If you give him a one-turn blow, he'll probably make that up on the off-days as we go down the line."
Home-field importance not lost on Manuel
CHICAGO -- Even though the Phillies are currently in third place in the National League East, manager Charlie Manuel felt relieved to win home-field advantage in the World Series.
"It's good for the National League," said Manuel, who led the NL to a 3-1 win over the American League in Tuesday's All-Star Game. "That's what I told our guys. I said, 'Some of you guys here are going to be in the World Series this year.' There's a whole bunch of teams that can, and one of them is going to play in the World Series."
But when asked if he was directing the remark at Phillies All-Star representatives Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay, Manuel quipped, "I was definitely thinking about my club."
Louie Horvath is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.