PHILADELPHIA -- Chase Utley is expected back in the Phillies' lineup Wednesday, but what about the Big Piece?

Could Ryan Howard be back shortly after the All-Star break?

It looks like it. The Phillies announced on Tuesday that Howard will return to Philadelphia on Wednesday for "functional testing on his left Achilles." If Howard passes those tests, he will begin a rehab assignment with Class A Lakewood on Thursday.

Once a position player begins a rehab assignment, he has 20 days before he must be activated unless there is a setback. So if Howard takes the full 20 days, he could be back no later than July 18, six games following the All-Star break.

Howard has been on the disabled list since the season started after undergoing surgery on the Achilles in October, and suffered a setback because of an infection in the heel in February.

Manager Charlie Manuel spoke to Howard on Monday.

"More than likely, the way things look, [he'll be back] after the All-Star break," Manuel said. "He feels real good. He still says that when he runs he's got a little limp. He says, 'I want to play, and I feel like I can play.' He says, 'I don't know if I'll be where you want me to be or not,' but at the same time, he's got to be able to go play and be able to do some things. He feels like he's getting there. He's very positive about where he's at."

For starters, Phils may use bullpen Wednesday

PHILADELPHIA -- Because the Phillies played a doubleheader on Sunday, using both Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee against the Rays, they are expected to use the bullpen to get through Wednesday's game against the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park.

If left-hander Raul Valdes does not pitch on Tuesday, he could start on Wednesday.

The Phillies also could call for help from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to get them through the week, but pitching coach Rich Dubee said that depends how things go on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Schneider to miss three to five weeks

PHILADELPHIA -- Catcher Brian Schneider underwent an MRI on Wednesday that revealed a high ankle sprain. His expected recovery time is three to five weeks.

Schneider was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Monday after spraining the ankle during a collision at the plate on Sunday.