PHILADELPHIA -- Left-hander Cliff Lee, who was placed on the disabled list with a left rib cage pull, had an MRI on Thursday that confirmed the original diagnosis.
"Cliff's got a Grade 1 left external oblique strain, which is kind of what we thought it was going to be," said general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. "And he seems to be doing better and better every day. Hopefully he'll only miss a couple starts, but we'll see how it goes."
Lee is eligible to be activated next Friday night, when the Phillies play at Nationals Park.
"It's possible," Amaro said. "We'd like to have him miss only a couple starts, but if he has to miss three or four starts, that's what it will be. We've got to be cautious. I don't want to have this thing blow out and miss him for a longer time."
In other injury news:
Second baseman Chase Utley (chronic knee inflammation) remains in Arizona working with a physical therapist.
"He's going to be out there [Arizona] for another week or so and then we'll see where he stands," Amaro said. "But he seems to be progressing very well. When he gets to the point where he's feeling significantly more comfortable, we'll get him down to Clearwater [Fla.] and get him going."
Right-hander Michael Stutes also had an MRI on Thursday that revealed a mild rotator cuff strain. He'll be shut down for two to three weeks and report to Clearwater to continue his rehab.
Howard hopes to resume baseball activity soon
PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, who hasn't played since suffering a torn Achilles tendon on the final play of the 2011 season, revealed after Friday night's 5-1 loss to the Cubs that he hopes to travel to Clearwater, Fla., on Sunday and resume baseball activities within a week.
He was examined earlier in the day by the team of specialists that has been treating the wound that became infected in February.
"They thought it looked good," Howard said. "So I'm going to try to finagle [the front office] to let me head down there. I'll probably give myself a week to get the soreness out and do some lifting and then see about hitting."
Beyond that, Howard didn't offer a timetable for when he might be activated.
"The tendon feels strong, but it's just building up around that," he said. "I have to get at-bats. I have to try to get into baseball situations, and there's no true timetable for that."
Rested Rollins returns to starting lineup
PHILADELPHIA -- Shortstop Jimmy Rollins was back in the lineup Friday night after missing his first start of the season Wednesday in Arizona. Combined with Thursday's open date, that gave him two days off.
"I just wanted him to clear his head a little bit," manager Charlie Manuel explained.
Rollins was in a 3-for-33 (.091) slide that dropped his overall season average to .229. Manuel said he didn't think being moved to the third spot in the order had any impact on Rollins, who has led off most of his career.
Rollins went 0-for-4 in Friday night's 5-1 loss to the Cubs.
"This isn't the first time he's gotten off to a slow start," Manuel pointed out. "He's done that before. He's like most hitters. You'll catch an 0-for-20 or a 2-for-30, things like that. You'll catch two or three of them sometimes during the season. That doesn't mean you'll have a bad season, though. That just means that for about a week you didn't do too good."
He pointed out that even entire teams go through peaks and valleys over the course of the season.
"I was like everybody else. When the season started I was like, 'Jiminy Christmas, Detroit is going to score a lot of runs this year.' For about 10 days there they killed the ball," Manuel said. "Now all of a sudden everybody's screaming and hollering that nobody's hitting but [Miguel] Cabrera. Where'd the hitting go? The hitting is still there. It hasn't gone nowhere. The baseball gods moved in on them. That's all."
Manuel trying to find right lineup chemistry
PHILADELPHIA -- Like most managers, Charlie Manuel prefers not to juggle his lineup. Slumps and injuries have forced him to improvise, though. The Phillies started their 16th different lineup in their first 19 games Friday night against the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park.
Manuel doesn't believe he's tinkering too much.
"I look at it, when you're struggling you can do almost anything," Manuel said. "It's like losing. You can try anything that you think is going to help when you're losing. But also the biggest thing, because we've just started the season, is that you've got to keep your head up, and you've got to keep going and stay with it and stay positive."
"When you're losing, you can change the lineup. You can do anything you want to. You do things to try to get you going when you're not hitting the ball."
The Phillies haven't been above .500 since winning on Opening Day.
The Phillies are 2-5 when facing a left-handed starter this season.
Ty Wigginton extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a fourth-inning single Friday. He added a solo homer in the seventh.
When Placido Polanco singled in the first inning Friday, it was the sixth straight plate appearance in which he'd reached base. The streak ended when he grounded out in the third.
Roy Halladay is 1-5 in six career starts against the Cubs.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.