CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Nationals are trying their best to build a rivalry with the Phillies in the National League East.
It started last month with their "Take Back the Park" campaign, designed to make tickets less accessible to Phillies fans for the Phillies-Nationals series May 4-6 at Nationals Park. But then Nationals manager Davey Johnson told the Washington Post that he would take Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and the rest of his rotation over Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels and the rest of the Phillies' rotation, in part because of their youth and potential.
"Their top three versus our top three, stuff-wise, we match up as good," Johnson told the Post.
"I guess that's his opinion," Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said.
Asked what he thought about Johnson's comments, Lee said, "He should [take those pitchers], because that's his only option. It's what he's got to do."
In other words, whatever.
Lee said he wouldn't compare Halladay, Hamels and himself to any other pitchers on any team in baseball.
"There's nothing good that's going to come out of that," said Lee, who allowed six hits and two runs in three innings in Sunday's 4-4 tie against the Tigers at Bright House Field. "I know we're proven and we've shown what we can do, and if we're healthy, we stack up pretty good against anyone. I'm not going to sit here and try to create something out of nothing, because to me, really, that's nothing."
Asked about the "Take Back the Park" campaign, Lee said, "That's another nothing thing for me. Whatever. They should try to get more fans to come out and support them. They should expect a lot out of their team. It's normal stuff. He should think his pitchers are better than anyone. He should think all his position players are better than anyone else. He should think he's got the best bullpen. If he doesn't, what's he thinking?"
Thome to begin getting work in at first base
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Since Jim Thome signed with the Phillies in November, he has been asked endlessly if he thinks he still can play first base.
Folks will have their first opportunity to actually see him play the position Monday.
Thome, 41, is scheduled to play four or five innings in a Minor League Spring Training game Monday afternoon at Carpenter Complex. Thome has not played first base in the big leagues since 2007, when he played one game there for the Chicago White Sox. He hasn't played regularly at first base since his first tour with the Phillies ended in 2005.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he hopes Thome can play 20 games at first base this season. That would help the Phillies offense, which might be without Ryan Howard until midseason. Howard suffered a setback last month with an infection near his left Achilles tendon. He remains in a walking boot following a surgical procedure to remove sutures that had not dissolved properly.
The Phillies plan to have Thome play in Minor League games before having him play in Grapefruit League games near the end of the month.
Contreras to take next step in rehab Monday
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jose Contreras proved a capable setup man and closer early last season until an injured right elbow sidelined him.
But Contreras, who had surgery to repair the elbow in September, seems to be recovering nicely and is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League Spring Training game Monday afternoon at Carpenter Complex.
It will be Contreras' first game action of the spring.
If Contreras keeps progressing he should be able to open the season on the big league roster.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopolous watched Phillies right-hander Joe Blanton pitch Saturday at Bright House Field. The Phillies have tried to trade Blanton the past couple off offseasons, looking to shed some of his $8.5 million salary.
Left-hander Dontrelle Willis, who has been sidelined with a sore arm, is playing catch, although pitching coach Rich Dubee did not offer a timetable for Willis' return to the mound.
Domonic Brown, who has been sidelined for almost a week because of a sprained right thumb, went 0-for-2 as a designated hitter Sunday against the Tigers.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.