CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jim Thome continues to work himself into shape at first base, easing himself into the position.

The Phillies plan to have Thome play a few innings at first base a few times in Minor League games at Carpenter Complex before he plays in a Grapefruit League game. So expect Thome to be the Phillies' designated hitter early in the Grapefruit League schedule.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he would be happy to have Thome start 20 games at first base this season. He also could start eight Interleague road games as the team's designated hitter. If Thome can handle that workload, Manuel is confident he can get him 180-200 at-bats, which Manuel feels would keep Thome sharp at the plate.

Frandsen offers glimpse into Howard's recovery

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- During his news conference at Bright House Field this week, Ryan Howard said he had not spoken to many athletes about the left Achilles he ruptured in Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series.

If he needs any advice about his recovery, he only needs to walk to the other side of the Phillies' clubhouse.

"I'm an athlete," infielder Kevin Frandsen joked this week. "He knows it."

Frandsen tore his left Achilles during Spring Training in 2008 and missed almost the entire season, although he was playing in rehab games roughly four and a half months following his surgery. Howard had his surgery in October, and the Phillies are hopeful he can be back in their lineup sometime before the end of May.

"How close was I to being 100 percent?" Frandsen said. "I don't know. I had no pain. I had no discomfort."

But Frandsen also said he probably didn't feel the same until "maybe a year, year and a half after [the surgery]."

"It has nothing to do with pain," he said. "It's just tedious work to get all of your explosiveness back. Hitting isn't a problem, although his is the back leg and mine was the front leg. But hitting didn't bother me. He's walking around great. He looks good. His hitting looks good. That's not going to be the issue. My biggest problem was getting out of the box and running."

Second bullpen lefty not a necessity

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies could carry just six pitchers in their bullpen to start the 2012 season.

Do they want two left-handers?

"If he can be effective for us? Yes, absolutely," Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "But if we're going to take a second lefty that can't get lefties out then I don't want a second lefty. I'll take another righty."

Left-hander Dontrelle Willis is the heavy favorite to be the second left-hander, joining Anthony Bastardo. Left-handers hit just .127 with a .369 OPS in 55 at-bats against him last season. Willis signed a one-year, $850,000 contract with the Phillies, but the deal is not guaranteed, so he likely needs to make a good showing in Spring Training to make the team.

Worth noting

• The Phillies play an exhibition Wednesday against Florida State at Bright House Field. Right-hander Austin Hyatt will start. The Phillies selected Hyatt in the 15th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. He went 12-6 with a 3.85 ERA in 28 starts last season with Double-A Reading. Following Hyatt will be Jake Diekman, Jeremy Horst, Michael Schwimer, Joe Savery, J.C. Ramirez, B.J. Rosenberg and Phillippe Aumont.

• Left-hander Cliff Lee, who had his last bullpen session scratched because of soreness in his abdomen, is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Sunday.

• Besides Roy Halladay, Lee, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton and Vance Worley, the Phillies expect to stretch out pitchers like Kyle Kendrick, Joel Pineiro, Pat Misch, Scott Elarton and Dave Bush.

"It might only be three innings in this camp," Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "I have certain guys that are priorities."