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03/22/12 6:20 PM ET

Polanco close to return, takes batting practice

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Two injured Phillies infielders took steps forward Thursday.

Ryan Howard removed the protective boot from his left foot, allowing him to increase his workouts. Placido Polanco took batting practice for the first time since spraining his left ring finger Saturday at Bright House Field.

Polanco said some discomfort remains, but he sounded optimistic. He could be back in the lineup in the next few days.

"I still have to get a little bit of a better grip with less pain," he said at Bright House Field. "If I catch a line drive, it'll hurt."

He expects to take BP again Friday.

Phillies fans have been wondering if the Phillies might have Polanco play second base while Chase Utley is out because of a chronic condition in both knees. That would allow Ty Wigginton to play third. Polanco said he has not been asked about it, but it probably would not happen unless something happens to Jimmy Rollins.

In that case, Freddy Galvis likely would move from second to short, Polanco would move from third to second and Wigginton would play third.

"You know me. I'll do whatever," Polanco said. "We're here to win. I've done it before, right?"

Polanco had been taking things easy this spring. He had sports hernia surgeries in October and has a history of back and elbow problems. The Phillies are hoping to keep him as healthy as possible, which seems imperative with Utley and Howard out.

"I want to be out there playing," Polanco said. "I feel great. Other than (the finger)."

Polanco, 36, was asked if he tires of people mentioning his age.

"They're probably older than me," he said. "It's their opinion. Honestly, I don't care. ... I kind of like it. Maybe I can have a good year and prove them wrong."

Utley set to rejoin Phillies in camp

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Chase Utley could rejoin the team Friday in Clearwater.

He left the team Monday -- he had been spotted this week in the Phoenix area -- to visit an unnamed specialist about the chronic condition in his knees.

"He's supposed to come back tomorrow or the next day or something," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I don't know."

Had he heard anything encouraging or discouraging about the visit?

"I haven't heard nothing," he said. "Absolutely zero."

Lee pleased with pitches Bautista hit for doubles

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Remove Jose Bautista from Toronto's lineup and Cliff Lee looked even better Thursday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

He allowed five hits and one run in six innings in a 2-0 loss to Toronto. He also struck out seven. Bautista, who hit a moon shot against Lee last June in Toronto, doubled twice in the first four innings against him.

"I felt good," Lee said. "I felt like I could've kept going easy, but I want to build up and head in the right direction. Take Bautista out of the game and it was really good.

"He's a good hitter. He's really good at picking up sequences and what you're trying to get to. Both the hits he got were really good pitches. I'll take both of them all day -- backdoor cutter was right there and he hit it the other way and the next one was a two-seamer outside. Both were right where I wanted them and he put good swings on both of them. There's a reason he's where he is."

Worth noting

•  Right-hander Jose Contreras, who is coming back from right elbow surgery, allowed one hit and one unearned run in one inning Thursday against Toronto. "His velocity was good," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He let the ball go."

•  Jim Thome played first base for seven innings in a Minor League Spring Training game at Carpenter Complex in Clearwater. He fielded all five balls hit his way. "I was really, really pleased with how the day went," Thome said. He said he is close to playing first base in a Grapefruit League game. "After seven innings, I'll be curious tomorrow to see how I feel," he said. "I think we've done this the right way. We've progressed. Charlie has been great with how he's handled this. My body is getting to the point where I'm starting to adapt to playing defense."

•  Right-hander Kyle Kendrick pitched in a Minor League game. He allowed six hits and three runs and struck out five in five innings.

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