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04/21/09 7:17 PM ET

Ruiz could begin Minors rehab stint soon

Phils pitchers have struggled since catcher went on DL

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies entered Tuesday's series opener against the Brewers with a 6.87 ERA, the highest in the National League.

The Phillies have been without catcher Carlos Ruiz since April 10, when he strained his right oblique and landed on the 15-day disabled list. Has his absence played a role in how much the pitching staff has struggled?

"I don't think we've played that many games to know that," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I like to think that most big league teams use two catchers. I like to think that shouldn't have anything to do with it, really."

The Phillies had a 7.46 ERA (29 earned runs in 35 innings) in the four games Ruiz started, and a 6.53 ERA (45 earned runs in 62 innings) with him on the DL.

Ruiz caught in the bullpen Tuesday and hit off the practice tee. He reported no symptoms, and could begin a rehab assignment in the Minor Leagues this weekend if he continues to make progress. He is eligible to be activated Sunday against the Marlins at Dolphin Stadium, but while he might not be ready Sunday, the Phillies think he could be ready sometime soon after.

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