PHILADELPHIA -- With just two weeks until the postseason, setup man Antonio Bastardo is going through some rough times.
It's far from an opportune time for the eighth-inning stalwart and No. 1 reliever against left-handed hitters to be struggling. Bastardo has allowed four earned runs in six appearances this month. To put that in perspective, before that he allowed eight earned runs the entire season.
"He's having trouble with command, and he's not really busting the ball or turning it loose," manager Charlie Manuel said.
Manuel had predicted trouble for the young reliever earlier this season because he does not have the experience of pitching this deep in a season.
But Manuel wasn't too concerned after Thursday afternoon's 3-1 victory. Bastardo entered the game in the eighth, faced three batters, induced a flyout to deep center, and allowed a double and walk before being replaced by Brad Lidge.
"It can be very tough at times, because a lot of times, you don't know what adjustments you need to make, and a lot of times you don't need to make any," Lidge said. "But you don't know that, because you haven't been through it before."
Blanton's status not settled, even after return
PHILADELPHIA -- Joe Blanton returned to a Major League mound on Monday for the first time in nearly four months, pitching a scoreless eighth in a 5-1 loss to the Astros.
It was hardly a pressure inning. The Phillies trailed by four runs, but with the postseason approaching, they saw it as an opportune time to see what they had in the right-hander -- who missed most of the season with what the team is calling right elbow inflammation.
The Phillies have two weeks to determine how much help Blanton can provide in October. He has yet to show he can pitch on back-to-back days or even throw more than one inning.
"The only thing you can do right now is see," Blanton said. "It's definitely not a time for them or me to say, 'Well, let's just throw one inning and see.' If they need me to throw more innings than that, I need to be able to throw more innings than that. If I can't throw more innings than that, I need to have surgery and take care of what's wrong. That's kind of both sides of it right there."
Blanton has some experience pitching out of the bullpen in the playoffs with the Phillies and A's. He said he had no problems loosening up in limited warmup time Monday, but he acknowledged that it's easier doing so in a climate-controlled stadium like Houston, as opposed to potentially cold and damp conditions outdoors.
He got through the outing pain-free. He threw his fastball four times with an average velocity of 90.9 mph, according to PitchFX data. He threw four cutters, two sliders and one changeup, still avoiding the curveball because that pitch caused discomfort earlier in his rehab.
"I was the only guy to throw out of the 'pen that day, so it was good to give those guys a day off," Blanton said. "They've been out there throwing a lot of pressure innings this year. Just give them a day's rest, keep them fresh, that's the important thing."
Utley back in action for Phillies
PHILADELPHIA -- Chase Utley is back on the field.
Utley had not played since Sept. 7, when he sustained a concussion after a pitch hit him in the back of his helmet. He experienced some fogginess shortly after the incident but otherwise exhibited no symptoms.
"It really wasn't that bad," Utley said following Thursday's doubleheader sweep of the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. "We felt the best thing was to come out of the game and not push it."
Utley pinch-hit in Game 1 and started the nightcap.
Utley felt "normal" on Friday and Saturday, but the Phillies did not want him to fly to Milwaukee or Houston, which forced him to miss the seven-game road trip.
"I would think so," said Utley when asked if he would have returned earlier had it been the postseason. "The medical staff advised me, and they had my best interests at hand. I wanted to be in Milwaukee and Houston. It just didn't work out that way.
"It was a little frustrating. I understand it was the best thing to do. Concussions can be a little tricky at times. There's a lot of guys that are pretty messed up from them. It's better to be safe than sorry in that situation, but yeah, it wasn't a whole lot of fun watching on TV."
Center City mural will honor Phillies' history
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies announced a mural design for Center City that celebrates the history of the franchise as part of The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.
The new 3,750 square-foot mural will be located on a building at 24th and Walnut streets. It will stand eight stories high and feature more than 30 players and historical moments. The Phillies, who were christened in 1884, are the oldest, continuous, one-name, one-city franchise in professional sports.
Current Phillies Charlie Manuel, Brad Lidge, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay join droves of former players such as Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Jim Bunning and Larry Bowa on the mural. Additionally, there is space for one more player, who will be chosen by fans via online voting.
Also, there will be numerous community paint days, giving all fans a chance to help with the project. The first public paint day will be on Sept. 18 at Citizens Bank Park, for fans attending that night's game against the Cardinals.
Nate Mink is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.