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09/17/07 8:29 PM ET

Notes: Gordon insists he's fine

Phils' Manuel will rest reliever after stellar work in New York

ST. LOUIS -- Sitting in the dugout a few hours before Monday's series opener at Busch Stadium, Philadelphia Phillies reliever Tom Gordon said he felt fine after experiencing a twinge in his back on Sunday in New York.

"It just tightened up on me," Gordon said. "I don't feel bad today."

Gordon winced after throwing a pitch to the Mets' Endy Chavez in the eighth inning. The right-hander was able to strike Chavez out and get Jeff Conine to ground out to end the inning, but Gordon winced again on his way into the dugout.

"His back's a little stiff," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said Monday.

The skipper said Gordon wasn't going to pitch in Monday night's game against the Cardinals anyway after throwing in three straight games against the Mets, in which he did not allow an earned run in three innings of work.

"He's going to get today off for sure," Manuel said. "We'll have to wait and see "

Gordon is 3-2 with a 5.46 ERA in 34 games. He has struck out 26 and walked 11 in 31 1/3 innings while converting six of 11 save opportunities.

He is an integral part of a bullpen that has been strong lately. In the Phillies' last four games entering Monday, the 'pen has allowed just two earned runs in 19 1/3 innings -- an ERA of 0.93 -- and earned the decision in each victory.

Philadelphia's record when leading after six innings is 60-13. When leading after seven innings, the Phillies are 66-10. Leading after eight innings, the team is 71-5.

"When they are rested and we've got a lead, I feel good," Manuel said.

Howard's homecoming: Ryan Howard wasn't making a big deal about his return home to St. Louis for the second time this season.

"It's definitely nice to come back to where I grew up," he said. "It's a trip home for me."

Howard said he was able to spend some time with his family Sunday night and again before Monday's game. He also said he only left eight tickets for family and friends, after leaving around 40 in the past.

The Phillies won two out of three games in St. Louis in June. Howard had five hits in 12 at-bats (.417 average) with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored during that series.

For his career, Howard is hitting .352 (19-for-54) against the Cardinals, with four home runs and 12 RBIs.

Thome's 500th: Manuel got a phone call from Jim Thome on Sunday after the former Phillies first baseman hit the 500th home run of his career.

"He said I was the first person he called," Manuel said.

Manuel first met Thome when the Chicago White Sox designated hitter was 19 years old and playing in the instructional league for the Cleveland Indians after being a 13th-round Draft pick.

Thome's home run on Sunday was dramatic: a two-run shot in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the White Sox a 9-7 victory over the Angels.

"I asked him if the wind was blowing out," Manuel said.

Manuel said he told Thome the slugger should now start working on No. 600.

"I think he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame," Manuel said.

Lineup changes: The Phillies went with a slightly different lineup for the series opener in St. Louis against Cardinals right-hander Brad Thompson.

The first five names were familiar: Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Pat Burrell, Howard and Aaron Rowand. Greg Dobbs was batting in the sixth spot, with Jayson Werth seventh and Carlos Ruiz eighth in front of pitcher Kyle Kendrick.

Up next: Ace Cole Hamels (14-5, 3.50 ERA) will make one of the most anticipated starts of the season as he returns after missing more than a month with a strained left elbow. Prior to Monday's game, St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa had yet to name a starter for Tuesday's game. Possible candidates are Kip Wells (6-17, 5.77 ERA), Mike Maroth (0-4, 11.01 ERA), Todd Wellemeyer (3-2, 3.55 ERA) or Anthony Reyes (2-14, 5.69 ERA).

Nate Latsch is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.