For Phillies' Ibanez, being pushed by a youngster nothing new

The questions were everywhere.

Coming off one of the most prolific seasons of his career, Raul Ibanez suddenly found himself staring down the barrel of a potential platoon situation. The club was about to call up its 22-year-old top prospect, presumably to share time with the veteran in leftfield. Ninety-four games into the season, Ibanez was hitting just .253 with a .306 on-base percentage, .695 OPS and six home runs. When the club finally called the prospect up to the majors, the kid responded with two hits and two runs in his first game of the year.

Sound familiar?

It was 2007. The prospect was Adam Jones. And Ibanez was 35.

If the situation seems similar to the one the Phillies have witnessed in 2010, know this: Ibanez finished that year hitting .357 with a .423 OBP, 1.057 OPS and 15 home runs in August and September.

His final numbers in 2007 - a .291 average, .351 OBP, .827 OPS and 21 home runs - are ones the Phillies are hoping he can find a duplicate.

Less than a month ago, Ibanez was hitting .240 with a .328 OBP and .721 OPS with six home runs, 15 doubles, 36 RBI and 30 runs in 76 games. Over the next 22, he hit .350 with a .435 OBP and .972 OPS. That stretch included six doubles, three homers, 13 RBI and 17 runs.

The result, as of the start of last night's game against the Nationals, was a .263 average, .349 on-base percentage, and .773 OPS.

The 38-year-old Ibanez is 3 years older than he was in 2007, and it will take a lot more than a 22-game hot spell to dispel any speculation about his age. But with centerfielder Shane Victorino on the disabled list and top prospect Domonic Brown filling in, the Phillies are well aware of the impact a streaking Ibanez could have on their playoff hopes. In their first 50 games last season, he hit .340 with a .399 OBP, 1.115 OPS and 19 home runs to help keep them afloat despite pitching struggles and a slumping Jimmy Rollins. Plagued by a serious abdominal tear that prompted a stint on the DL and offseason surgery, Ibanez finished the year hitting just .228/.313 with a .758 OPS and 15 home runs in 84 games.

Now, they are hoping the season ends up playing out in reverse order.

"I think it took him a while to find his swing," manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's starting to get very consistent."

 

Rollins returns

 

Jimmy Rollins returned to the top of the lineup after a 3-day absence. The shortstop fouled a ball off his foot Monday, leaving himself with a deep bruise that left him walking with a limp. But after hitting in the batting cage yesterday afternoon, Rollins declared himself ready to go.

 

The deadline

 

Ruben Amaro Jr. didn't look like a man preparing for more wheeling and dealing before today's trade deadline. One day after putting the finishing touches on a trade for Astros righthander Roy Oswalt, the Phillies' general manager lounged casually in the dugout before last night's game against the Nationals, his chief attention paid toward the sunflower seeds he hurled onto the dirt warning track.

Even if the Phillies do as expected and stand pat, Amaro got a thumbs up from Manuel for the one move he made.

"Last year, at one time, especially when we got [Cliff] Lee and we had Pedro [Martinez], I thought our pitching was pretty good," Manuel said, "but this right here has a chance to be better . . . I think our pitching is definitely better. With Oswalt, it gives us three strong starters, and that's the strongest we've been since I've been here."

For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at http://go.philly.com/highcheese. Follow him on Twitter at

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