Rollins returns as Phils prepare for series with Cardinals

Jimmy Rollins was in a group of four taking extra hitting before the game tonight. (Lenny Ignelzi/AP)

ST. LOUIS -- Jimmy Rollins was in the batting cage at Busch Stadium Thursday nearly five hours before game time.

After missing the previous three games to be with his wife Johari and newborn baby girl Camryn Drew, the Phillies' shortstop was reinstated from baseball's paternity leave list after Wednesday's win over the Washington Nationals. Catcher Erik Kratz, who had replaced Rollins on the roster, returned to triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Rollins was in a group of four taking extra hitting before the opening game of the Phillies' four-game series with the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals. He was joined in the batting cage by Chase Utley, Shane Victorino and Juan Pierre.

Rollins will likely be back in the lineup against the 25-19 Cardinals, who have won three straight games and sit a half-game ahead of the Cincinnati in the National League Central.

The Cardinals, of course, erased the Phillies' World Series hopes a year ago by winning a five-game divisional series that ended with a 1-0 pitcher's duel between close friends Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay at Citizens Bank Park.

This St. Louis team looks a lot different than that one with Albert Pujols now playing for the Los Angeles Angels and Carpenter and Lance Berkman on the disabled list.

Unlike the Phillies, however, the Cardinals have managed to overcome their losses in the early going, thanks in large part to the addition of Carlos Beltran (.292, 14 home runs and 37 RBIs), the continuing emergence of World Series MVP David Freese (.265, nine home runs and 31 RBIs) and the work of starting pitchers Lance Lynn, Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook and Jaime Garcia.

Lynn, 7-1 with a 2.54 ERA, is an early contender for National League rookie of the year, but the Phillies will not face him this weekend. They will face Westbrook (4-3, 2.41) Thursday night, Lohse (5-1, 2.91) Friday, Garcia (3-2, 3.55) Saturday and Adam Wainwright (3-5, 4.78) Sunday.

The Phillies will counter with Joe Blanton (4-4, 3.74) Thursday, Cliff Lee (0-2, 2.66) Friday, Kyle Kendrick (0-4, 5.23) Saturday and Halladay (4-4, 3.58) Sunday.