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05/24/07 9:45 PM ET

Notes: Manuel defends decision

Phillies manager stuck with Myers with four-run lead

MIAMI -- Why did manager Charlie Manuel use Brett Myers with a four-run lead on Wednesday?

Simply, because Myers was ready. The closer, who hadn't pitched since Sunday, warmed up quickly in anticipation of protecting a one-run lead in the ninth. When the Phillies added three more runs, two of them with two outs, Manuel didn't think to go with the inexperienced Yoel Hernandez or Francisco Rosario, because bringing either of them in likely would mean Myers would end up pitching anyway.

"Once I got him up, the way the wind was blowing and everything, he was coming in the game," Manuel said. "The last two nights, the wind's been blowing and it does funny things to the ball. Once he was warm, I was putting him in the game all the way."

Of Myers' seven ninth-inning appearances, three came with the Phillies leading by four or more runs. The first two came at Citizens Bank Park, a place where Manuel feels a four-run lead is like having a two-run lead. On Wednesday in spacious Dolphin Stadium, Geoff Geary and Antonio Alfonseca already had been used, leaving Manuel with no other alternative, regardless of what the rotisserie second-guessers might think.

Radio talk-show hosts and callers, who last month were saying Myers should work two-inning saves (even when Tom Gordon still was on the roster), now are angry with Manuel for using Myers in games he feels the team needs to win, regardless of whether it's a save situation.

What would Yankees manager Joe Torre or Mets manager Willie Randolph do?

Seven of Mariano Rivera's 17 appearances this season have come with the Yankees ahead by four or more runs, and two others came when they were trailing. Twice more, Rivera entered a game in the eighth inning, once with a three-run lead and the other after they were losing by four runs.

For the Mets, Billy Wagner has made 19 appearances this season, and seven of those came with the Mets ahead by four or more runs.

For comparison, the Brewers' Francisco Cordero (three of 20) and the Angels' Francisco Rodriguez (four of 20) have been used more by the book.

"You can say anything you want to: a save situation, a three-run lead -- that's the only reason why someone would say, 'Why would you use him for a four-run lead?'" Manuel said. "Because somebody came along and made a rule and said three runs is a save situation."

Phillies management also has been pleased with the former starter's workload.

"I don't think [he's being used too much]," assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "I think Charlie has used him just right. That's not an issue for us at all."

Ready to go: Ryan Howard made his second rehabilitation start for Class A Lakewood on Thursday night, and he went 0-for-3 with a walk. Howard flew out to center, struck out looking and grounded into a double play.

He played first base and had no assists, only putouts. The only challenge to his left quadriceps muscle came when he had to advance on a wild pitch.

Howard can't return soon enough. Despite his .204 average this season, his presence in the lineup changes the way teams approach the Phillies.

"Him in our lineup makes up a better team," Manuel said.

Howard is expected to join the Phillies in Atlanta on Friday, when he will be activated from the disabled list. Chris Coste or Hernandez will head to Triple-A Ottawa.

Finally, a day off: Chase Utley didn't start Thursday's series finale, his first non-start since Aug. 22, 2006, when Danny Sandoval got the call at second base. Utley had started the previous 83 games.

A three-hit game Wednesday that included a triple and a home run, and the fact that he's hitting .302 versus lefties, didn't outweigh his 4-for-21 (.190) career performance against Dontrelle Willis.

"If there's a good day to take off, it's probably today," Utley said.

His absence leaves Aaron Rowand and Jimmy Rollins as the only Phillies to have played in every inning this season, and Manuel is trying to find opportunities to get them a day off soon.

Utley's anticipated rest was short-lived. He entered Thursday's game in the bottom of the first inning after Abraham Nunez had to leave with a mild concussion. Nunez was socked in the face by Marlins catcher Miguel Olivo in a strange play in the top of the first. Nunez struck out as Rollins tried to steal second base. Olivo threw to second, and hit Nunez in the side of the face with his hand.

Philling in: Gordon remains in Clearwater, Fla., and he isn't expected to begin a throwing program until next week at the earliest.

Coming up: On Friday, left-hander Jamie Moyer (4-3, 4.37 ERA) will be looking to rebound from his two toughest outings of the season after a strong start. On Saturday against Toronto, Moyer allowed seven runs on eight hits and was pulled after 3 1/3 innings, his shortest start of the season. He's 1-6 with a 5.37 ERA in seven career starts against the Braves. Right-hander Tim Hudson (5-2, 2.42 ERA) will start for Atlanta.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.