PHILADELPHIA -- Ruben Amaro Jr. called it "a light at the end of the tunnel."
The Phillies general manager confirmed Saturday night that first baseman Ryan Howard (Achilles tendon surgery) will leave for Clearwater, Fla., to continue his rehabilitation, and second baseman Chase Utley (chronic knee issues) could follow him to the complex soon.
The Phillies have been without their 3-4 hitters all year, which is a big reason they have scored two or fewer runs in 11 of their first 20 games.
"[Howard] will start doing some more baseball stuff, ground balls and some other things on Monday," Amaro said. "He probably won't start hitting for at least a few days. I think he wants to get his legs under him and not get into any bad habits. And once he starts hitting, he'll be able to hit. And go pretty aggressively, I think."
Utley, who has been working with physical therapist Brett Fischer in Arizona, is expected to join the team in Washington next weekend. As soon as he feels comfortable, he'll join Howard in Florida.
"If he continues to do well -- and so far, he's done pretty darn well -- at some point he'll be headed down to Clearwater. I don't know the exact timetable on him," Amaro said.
The Phillies have been reluctant to put a timetable on when either player could return to the big league lineup. Amaro is convinced they won't need the equivalent of a full Spring Training, however.
"But they do have to get ready for the season. They haven't played. So it's going to take some time," he said. "It's a good progression for both of them, I think, a little bit of a light at the end of the tunnel. It's positive news because they're moving in the right direction, and hopefully we can be aggressive with them once they get down to Clearwater and start doing more baseball-related stuff."
Before beginning a formal rehab assignment, players can participate in extended spring games. They can bat each inning if need be. They can start, sit a couple of innings, then re-enter the game. They can, in short, be used in almost any way the teams sees fit.
"There's a lot of leeway," Amaro said.
Home is where the wins are for Blanton
PHILADELPHIA -- Joe Blanton won at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night, which is about as surprising as there being 60 feet, six inches between the pitcher's mound and home plate.
He's 2-3 this season. Both wins were at home. In fact, he hasn't lost at Citizens Bank Park since May 8, 2010, against the Braves. He's 7-0 in 19 home appearances (17 starts) since then. For his career, the right-hander is 16-6 at Citizens Bank Park.
"It's always nice to pitch at home, I guess," Blanton said. "You throw here more than any other place, so there's definitely a comfort level when you're out there. You're in your home clubhouse. You're in your own weight room. You know where everything is. You're in front of your home fans, and that's always good."
Blanton's eight strikeouts were the most he's had since he struck out eight on Sept. 19, 2010, against the Nationals. He made only eight starts last season because of elbow problems.
Rollins at leadoff as Phils shake up lineup
PHILADELPHIA -- Charlie Manuel wasn't sure if moving Jimmy Rollins back to the leadoff spot would help. Then again, with both the shortstop and the entire lineup struggling, he figured it couldn't hurt.
That was just one of several changes the Phillies manager made Saturday night in an attempt to shake up his slumping offense. Jim Thome got his second start at first base since April 13, Hunter Pence moved into the three hole vacated by Rollins and Laynce Nix started in left field. That meant two of the team's hottest hitters -- Juan Pierre (.333) and Ty Wigginton (.320) -- didn't start.
"I looked at their pitcher [right-hander Randy Wells], and I've been wanting to get Thome back on the field, and Nix in the game, too. Because he needs to play, just like Thome does. We need to score some runs. I figured the left-handers in the lineup tonight would help us get some runs," Manuel explained.
Rollins, primarily a leadoff hitter throughout his career, batted .216 from the third spot this season, including three hits in his last 37 at-bats (.081).
"It may be some kind of mindset thing. I have no idea about that," Manuel said.
Ty Wigginton, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the top of the fifth, extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a single in the seventh.
Jonathan Papelbon is 7-for-7 in save opportunities this season after Saturday's save.
Left-hander Cliff Lee (strained left oblique) played catch in the outfield before Saturday night's game, but still has not thrown a bullpen. He's eligible to be activated on Friday, but it remains unclear whether he'll be ready.
Roy Halladay was the losing pitcher Friday night despite retiring the first 10 batters he faced. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the 27th time in his career Halladay has put down at least nine straight batters to open a game. He's 19-5 in those starts.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.