Phillies bullpen going through trying stretch

PHILADELPHIA -- So much attention has been focused on the Phillies' offense that nobody has noticed how bad the bullpen has been recently.

Phillies relievers had a 2.01 ERA in 14 appearances through April 20, but have a 7.92 ERA in their last 17 games. Right-hander Chad Qualls has been one of the bullpen's biggest culprits. He has an 8.31 ERA in his last six appearances dating to April 24.

That would not be such a major problem -- every pitcher struggles for stretches -- except he has been the team's setup man. And other than closer Jonathan Papelbon, the rest of the bullpen has been inconsistent at best or ineffective at worst, with Antonio Bastardo (2.25 ERA in 12 appearances), Jose Contreras (8.59 ERA in nine appearances), Kyle Kendrick (9.53 ERA in five relief appearances) and Brian Sanches (11.25 ERA in three appearances).

The Phillies optioned right-hander Michael Schwimer (8.53 ERA in five appearances) before Wednesday's game and left-hander Joe Savery (4.50 ERA in eight appearances) after the game.

Qualls, however, thinks he found a solution to his problems. He studied film and compared his delivery from early in the season to Tuesday, when he allowed a single to David Wright to blow the lead in a 7-4 loss to the Mets at Citizens Bank Park.

"My ball is going to move, but it's not moving down as much," Qualls said before Wednesday's series finale. "There was some stuff I saw on the video. Basically, it's already fixed mentally with me right now. I'm just kind of rushing down the mound. It's an easy, quick fix. It's something in the past I wouldn't have been able to catch, but the older I get and the more I learn my mechanics I can kind of know how to fix it and correct it."

Phillies option Savery after loss to Mets

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies optioned left-hander Joe Savery to Triple-A Lehigh Valley following Wednesday's 10-6 loss to the Mets.

The Phillies will make a corresponding roster move before Friday's series opener against the Padres at Citizens Bank Park.

Savery had a 4.50 ERA in eight appearances. One possible candidate to replace him is Lehigh Valley left-hander Jake Diekman, who is 1-0 with a 0.63 ERA in 12 appearances. In 14 1/3 innings he has walked just three and struck out 22.

No fielding practice for Utley since joining Phils

PHILADELPHIA -- Chase Utley rejoined the team Saturday, but so far, he has not been participating in fielding practice as expected.

Utley is on the disabled list with chondromalacia in his left knee. He said Saturday that "over the next week or so I'll be on the field trying to get more ground balls and making some progressions in that area and just trying to get my feet under me as a far as a baseball standpoint goes. I was doing some baseball things in Arizona, but there's nothing like being with the team and on the field on a daily basis."

The Phillies said Utley's absence from the field -- he has taken batting practice as scheduled -- is no cause for alarm.

"He's still doing some exercises and stuff," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said.

So the fact he hasn't taken grounders doesn't mean anything?

"No," Amaro said.

Nix day to day with strained left calf

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Laynce Nix (sore left calf), Ty Wigginton (sore side) and Carlos Ruiz (sore hand) were unavailable to start, but were possibly available to pinch-hit Wednesday.

Nix pinch-hit and singled in the sixth, but he had trouble running down the first-base line. He left the game with a strained left calf. He is day to day.