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05/05/12 5:24 PM ET

Utley to rehab with club before heading south

WASHINGTON -- Chase Utley is a little closer to rejoining the Phillies.

Utley physically rejoined them Saturday at Nationals Park, although he remains at least a few weeks away from rejoining the Phillies' lineup. Utley, who is on the disabled list with chondromalacia in his left knee, will rehab with the team until he feels ready to begin playing rehab games in Clearwater, Fla.

He spent about two weeks playing in rehab games last season before he rejoined the team.

Could Utley need just another two weeks this time?

"We'll have to see," he said Saturday. "I want to be ready to go when that time comes. I'm not trying to look too far ahead. Right now, I'm just trying to get to that point where I'm ready for a rehab assignment."

Utley seems upbeat following the month he spent in Phoenix working with a physical therapist. He thinks it was time well spent.

"I think I learned a little bit about how my body is really, ideally supposed to move to be the most efficient and pain-free," he said. "I took some different ideas of stretches and strengthening things I'll carry for a while. It was a great experience. Obviously, I didn't like being away from the team and not being a part of what is going on here. But I thought it was best for me now, and for the team in the future."

Utley said he does not know how long he will be with the big league club before he heads to Clearwater.

"Once my body tells me it's ready to go 100 percent, that's when I'm going to go down to Clearwater," he said.

Utley said he remains pain-free hitting, and has made strides during fielding practice.

"Obviously, over the next week or so, I'll be on the field trying to get more ground balls and making some progressions in that area, and just trying to get my feet under me as a far as a baseball standpoint goes," he said. "I was doing some baseball things in Arizona, but there's nothing like being with the team and on the field on a daily basis.

"Being fairly pain-free and not having to think about it is the most important thing. I've built some strength over the past month, and will continue to do that with the things I'm doing. We'll see. I don't want to be a detriment in the field. I want to be ready to rock when the time comes."

Lee expects to return Wednesday vs. Mets

WASHINGTON -- Cliff Lee is coming back.

The lefty threw a lengthy bullpen session Saturday morning at Nationals Park, and pronounced himself fit and ready to return to the Phillies' rotation on Wednesday. He has been on the disabled list since April 19 with a strained left oblique.

"Everything is normal," Lee said.

If he continues to feel OK -- and there is no reason to think he will not -- he will face the New York Mets on Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park. Kyle Kendrick, who had been starting in Lee's place, will return to the bullpen.

Lee is 0-1 with a 1.96 ERA in three starts this season.

Manuel slides Ruiz up to fifth in order

WASHINGTON -- Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz hit fifth Saturday against the Nationals. Ruiz, who entered the afternoon hitting .464 (13-for-28) during a seven-game hitting streak, knocked in the Phillies' only run with a sac fly while going 0-for-3 in the 7-1 loss.

It was only the second time he has hit higher than sixth in the lineup in his career, the first coming April 15, 2008, when he hit second.

"I put him there today because he's been really hot," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We had the lefty [Gio Gonzalez] going and I wanted to get him up there where he might have guys on base."

Manuel said he might keep Ruiz in that spot for now.

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