MIAMI -- Ryan Madson's expected return to active duty came with an unusual twist: the right-hander will serve as Philadelphia's lefty out of the pen. What? The demotion of left-hander Fabio Castro to make room for Madson left the Phillies without a lefty in the bullpen, so manager Charlie Manuel said Madson will be used to set things right against left-handers.
"He's been getting them out," Manuel said. With the help of a cut-fastball, lefties have hit .219 (7-for-32) against Madson, but with a .342 on-base percentage. That's a relatively small sample size, considering righties are hitting .281, but with only two more hits in the same number of at-bats. Discounting 2006, when Madson concedes that he didn't pitch well, period, lefties have historically fared well against Madson. In his mind, that was before his development of the cut-fastball, which helps "get them off the changeup," Madson said. "I think I can get lefties out. It's just setting them up right with fastballs and cutters in, get off the plate with a changeup away." If that doesn't work, Madson said he'll consider throwing left-handed. "I've been on some bad runs where I said, 'I'm going to try left-handed," Madson said. "I'll try it." In the meantime, Madson is relieved that his DL stint lasted just two weeks and didn't involve a shoulder or an elbow ailment. Strained oblique muscles happen, and Madson must try to prevent it from happening again. He's reworked his mechanics to land more out front instead of off toward the first base side. "When I get in trouble pitching-wise, I started to drift," Madson said. "I start to throw across my body and cut myself off. The ball doesn't jump, and is a little more straight. That's probably what advanced [the discomfort that led to the DL stint]. I'm trying to come from start to finish more square." Motivated: Starter Freddy Garcia wants the opportunity to pitch deeper in games, and Manuel would love to give that to him. First, there's the matter of Garcia's high pitch counts. Until the righty shows he can retire hitters with fewer pitches, Manuel must continue to summon his bullpen -- and this will continue to frustrate Garcia. Garcia, who hasn't lived up to expectations after being acquired by the White Sox, let his feelings boil over after Manuel pulled him on May 17, after 114 pitches. "Let me pitch," he said, at the time. "That's all I need to do. When I get in trouble, let me do my thing and try to get out of it. I've been around for a long time, and I know when guys get in trouble, [they can get out of it], I can get out of trouble too. That's why I win a lot of games most of the time. It's about confidence. If they don't have confidence about me ... I was feeling fine and he took me out." Still, 114 pitches. Either way, Manuel hopes Garcia's anger may motivate him on Wednesday. "I guess he's established and everything, and I guess if he says he's pitched out of those jams, I think I'll turn him loose one of these days and see," Manuel said. "He wants to show he can pitch seven and eight innings. Usually he has an inning or two where he has a high pitch count and that's what's done him in. I think it's just a matter of time before he gets through three or four innings with a low pitch count, then he'll have a good fifth and sixth inning. That's how he'll get us into the seventh and eighth." No timetable: Closer Tom Gordon may have begun a conditioning program Monday at the Carpenter Complex in Clearwater, Fla., but that doesn't mean his return in imminent. He'll spend a week there getting in shape, then return to Philadelphia on May 28 to be re-examined by team doctor Michael Ciccotti. Gordon is on the disabled list with a strained right rotator cuff. He was scheduled to begin throwing on May 11, but instead went to the hospital with an upper respiratory infection. If he checks out well on Monday, the Phillies might put Gordon on a throwing program. "It's a matter of building his strength up," Manuel said. "It wouldn't be fair to set a timetable because I don't know." Philling in: Ryan Howard will serve as the designated hitter on May 24 at Class A Lakewood, then is scheduled to play first base on Thursday. Barring any setbacks, he hopes to be activated in time for Friday's game at Atlanta. ... The Phillies are one of several interested in reliever Troy Percival, who is attempting a comeback. The closer is expected to throw in front of several teams in a few weeks. ... First-base coach Davey Lopes returned to the team after a week attending to family matters. Coming Up: Garcia (1-3, 4.86) must learn to be more economical with his pitches, if he's ever going to last longer in games. The right-hander needed 114 pitches to get through 5 2/3 innings in his previous start, but left the game with the bases loaded. His opponent will be Byung-Hun Kim (2-2, 7.15). Game time is 7:05 p.m. ET.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.