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Notes: Howard's return offers comfort

Notes: Howard's return offers comfort

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ATLANTA -- Big No. 6 strolled out of the tunnel, and placed his bats in the rack. His teammates filed past him and onto the field for the team's pregame stretch.

On this day, finally, Ryan Howard would be among them.

"I was getting bored in cheerleader mode," said Howard, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list before Friday's game. "This feels pretty good."

Howard returned to the cleanup spot, with Chase Utley returning to third and Jimmy Rollins heading to leadoff. Despite Howard's .204 batting average, manager Charlie Manuel enjoyed writing that name on the lineup card.

"Our lineup looked better to me with him in it," Manuel said.

Rapid ascent: Sitting alone in the corner of the visitors' clubhouse, Michael Zagurski quietly flipped through a newspaper. He might as well, since he didn't really know anyone anyway, and likely wouldn't know what to say.

Because Zagurski has never seen a Major League clubhouse, and never broken bread with Major League players, the kid with wavy blond hair kept to himself for the first few hours of his first day in the big leagues. The fact that Zagurski is here is a story in itself.

Blazing through Class A Clearwater with a 1.10 ERA, with 30 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings, Zagurski was summoned to Double-A Reading on May 13, where he continued to excel. When the Phillies needed to replace disabled reliever Brett Myers, Zagurski jumped two more levels.

"It caught me off guard," he said. "I was fortunate to get called up to Reading probably a little earlier than I thought. Then being there for 10 days and getting to come here, I'd say it was pretty quick."

Zagurski is listed on page 352 of Philadelphia's 368-page media guide, the final name in the team's Minor League section. A University of Kansas graduate, he's the school's 21st product to play in the Majors. He comes after Travis Metcalf, who was called up -- and since optioned -- by Texas last week.

The 367th overall selection in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, the lefty split his time at short-season Batavia that season starting and relieving. Converted to a full-time reliever in 2006, he took off at Lakewood, posting a 3.51 ERA in 42 appearances and whiffing 75 in 56 1/3 innings, thanks to a 90-93 mph fastball, a slider and a changeup.

"We had some people see him, and he's always showed a lot of gumption," assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. He's goes after people, pitches inside. He's aggressive and doesn't get fazed. His makeup and his talent warranted an opportunity to be in the big leagues with us."

The Phillies passed over lefty Matt Smith to call on Zagurski.

"I called my parents first," he said. "They were about as shocked as I was, and excited for me as well. I took a few phone calls from former teammates and friends. I got some friends in town, some friends and family. My girlfriend lives here, so it worked out OK, saving me a plane ticket for her."

Tough break: In the bustle of a move-filled clubhouse, Chris Coste packed four bags of belongings and quietly left Atlanta. Easily the saddest player in the room, Coste was the unfortunate casualty of Howard's return to active service.

Coste expected it, but that didn't make it any easier.

The catcher's return to Double-A Reading came at his own suggestion, according to Amaro. The 34-year-old wanted to catch regularly, an option that wasn't possible with prospect Jason Jaramillo developing in Triple-A Ottawa.

"It was tough to send him out," Amaro said. "Performance-wise, I don't think he deserved it. The way our club is set up, that's the move that we have to make. I feel like he'll be back. He's still an important part of our club and a guy that can still very much help us. It's part of the game."

A tough part, especially after he hit .328 in 65 games last season. Coste politely declined to speak with reporters.

Quotable: "If there's bad blood, we shouldn't be over there kissy-facing before the game, high-fiving and enjoying their company. When you put this uniform on, you go out there to win the game, and actually it's a fight. -- Manuel, when asked whether he feels there is bad blood between the Marlins and Phillies

Philling in: Jon Lieber and Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis were fined an undisclosed amount for their actions in Thursday's game. Each threw behind the other's back, with Lieber's coming first. When the fourth inning ended, the teams exchanged words, benches cleared and much shoving and shouting occurred.

Infielder Abraham Nunez was held out of Friday's game with a mild concussion, suffered when Marlins catcher Miguel Olivo punched him in the head Thursday. Olivo threw to second on a stolen base attempt, and couldn't stop in time to avoid Nunez, who had just swung and missed strike three.

Coming up: The Phillies will continue their three-game series against the Braves on Saturday afternoon at 3:55 p.m. ET. Atlanta will send Buddy Carlyle to the mound to make his season debut against Philadelphia's Adam Eaton (4-3, 5.70) at Turner Field.

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

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