PHILADELPHIA -- Do not be surprised to see Chase Utley back in the Phillies' lineup before the end of their nine-game homestand, and Domonic Brown back in Philadelphia in a few weeks.
The Phillies have not made those predictions publicly, but both scenarios make sense. The homestand ends May 26. Utley, who began a rehab assignment May 10, must be activated no later than May 30 unless he is physically unable to play. He was scheduled to play nine innings Wednesday and Thursday with Class A Clearwater, which is a good sign his return is near.
"He's been pretty good," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said.
Amaro said it is tempting to bring Utley back early, but he needs at-bats after missing Spring Training while recovering from right knee tendinitis. Amaro would not say how many at-bats Utley needs, but he had 32 at-bats through Tuesday, including two extended spring games.
"We've got to do what's right for Chase," Amaro said.
Brown, who broke his hand swinging at a pitch during Spring Training, is back in the Triple-A Lehigh Valley lineup after missing a few games because of a thumb injury. He went 1-for-2 with two walks and two RBIs in his return Tuesday, and he knocked in the winning run with a hit Wednesday. Brown is hitting .341 with two home runs, 10 RBIs and a .968 OPS in 41 at-bats for the IronPigs.
Phillies right fielders have a .711 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage), which ranks 15th in the National League. Phillies left fielders have a .659 OPS, which ranks 14th. If the Phillies do not start getting more production from their corner outfielders, they will have no choice but to promote Brown if he keeps hitting.
"He's swinging the bat better," Amaro said of Brown. "He just needs to keep playing. He's got to get reps and get in a position to be ready. When it's time to come to the big leagues he's got to be ready to be a big league player. He'll be in the big leagues at some point. It's kind of a matter of time."
For Utley and Brown, it seems to be sooner rather than later.
Injuries contributing to Phillies' struggling bats
PHILADELPHIA -- Have the Phillies been in a slump?
The numbers certainly suggest they have been. They scored just seven runs and picked up just 17 hits during a four-game losing streak entering Wednesday's series opener against the Colorado Rockies at Citizens Bank Park.
But the Phillies see a team that has had three, four, sometimes five players in the lineup that have little to no experience as players, much less everyday players.
"We haven't had our set lineup out there," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said.
Amaro said at the moment, he is not thinking about trading talent to add a bat. The Phillies seem to have depth in their rotation with Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick as their No. 6 and 7 starting options, but Amaro said considering recent injuries to Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton, he does consider that an area of great depth.
"We've got to ride out the storm a little bit, get guys healthy and hope they start performing a little bit," Amaro said.
The Phillies have a payroll of more than $165 million, so they might not have the flexibility to add a considerable talent unless they shed payroll. Amaro said the Phillies haven't talked about that yet.
"When we pick up a guy like Chase [Utley], it's like making a pretty big trade," Amaro said of the team's star second baseman, recovering from right knee tendinitis.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is looking forward to having Utley back, too. But he is getting frustrated he can't put a complete lineup on the field.
Manuel also indicated his team is missing its edge.
"We've been playing seven years since I've been here, and our slogan is, 'We do it because we want to do it and not because we have to do it,'" Manuel said. "I look at it sometimes, and if there's anything wrong ... maybe we need to want to do it a little bit better. Does that make sense? Maybe we should want to do it a little bit more. We can relax and play loose, but maybe we do need to enjoy it a little bit more.
"I look at our ballpark and all of our fans here, and I can't imagine a hitter not wanting to walk into our ballpark and play. If I'm hurt, and I can possibly play in this yard, I'd be out there playing. And I mean that. That's putting everything aside. You have a full house, and this is just a good place to play."
Asked if he sees less desire from his current players, Manuel backed off.
"I'm not saying that," he said. "I can't read anyone's mind. But I can watch how they can play."
Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino (sore right hamstring) pinch-hit in the eighth inning Wednesday and is scheduled to have a MRI on his right hamstring Thursday. "It's better," Victorino said before the game. ... General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said right-hander Roy Oswalt (lower back inflammation) exceeded some expectations Tuesday in St. Louis. He came out of his start OK. ... Right-hander Michael Stutes (back) played catch with team athletic trainer Scott Sheridan before Wednesday's game. Stutes, who tweaked a muscle in his back in St. Louis on Tuesday, said he hopes to be available before the end of the weekend. ... Right-hander Jose Contreras (strained right flexor pronator tendon) allowed four hits and three runs in two-thirds of an inning in a rehab appearance Wednesday with Class A Clearwater. If he feels OK, he is scheduled to pitch again Saturday. ... Right-hander Brad Lidge (strained right posterior rotator cuff) could throw off the mound for the first time Thursday.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.