The Phillies stint against the Mets has been a little like watching

The Apprentice

- young and inexperienced protégés going up against hard-core New Yorkers.

It's not an easy way to break into a job, and pitcher J.A. Happ realized that quickly today in the Phillies' 8-3 loss to the New York Mets.

After just four innings, the Phillies concluded he was not the answer to their ailing rotation and sent him back to the minor leagues.

"I feel like he gutted it out," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "I liked the fact that he stayed there. I like his poise. I think down the road he'll be a real good pitcher."

The Phillies could use a real good pitcher right now considering their injury-depleted starting rotation.

The third straight loss to the first-place Mets dropped the Phillies to six game behind them.

Symbolically of the Phillies' woes lately, Aaron Rowand hung over the Citizens Bank bullpen fence for a few moments after nearly nabbing a homerun by the Mets' Carlos Beltran.

The ball hit Rowand's glove and twisted it around on his hand, leaving the center fielder without the ball and folded over at the waist on the fence in the seventh inning.

It was not the only time yesterday the Phillies felt like they had taken a shot to the gut.

"We took the field with the attitude we were going to go out and win some ball games," Rowand said. "It didn't finish out the way we wanted it to."

Happ was hardly eased into the majors in front of a sellout crowd of 45,003 for a televised game against one of the best teams in baseball.

He gave up three home runs and five runs on seven hits. In the first inning, he allowed two home runs and five hits for a 3-0 Mets lead.

"I was nervous before I went in," Happ said. "I was OK after that."

The Phillies had little choice but to use a rotation of youngsters.

Jon Lieber (foot), Freddy Garcia (shoulder), closer Tom Gordon (shoulder) and closer Brett Myers (shoulder) are all sidelined with injuries.

Following Happ's debut, Kyle Kendrick will make his fourth career start tomorrow. Rookie J.D. Durbin was fed to the Mets in the second loss of the Friday doubleheader.

"We got in a spot where we had to throw young guys at them," Manuel said. "We just ran into a series where we have to throw what we've got. That's how it is."

No one on the team is pointing fingers at the young pitchers. Six pitchers have made their major league debut with the Phillies this season.

"It's tough, I'm sure, for these guys their first time out," said rightfielder Shane Victorino. "You can't put any blame on them."

After the rocky first inning, Happ looked like he had settled down.

After giving up the homers to Paul Lo Duca and David Wright in the first inning, Happ pitched three scoreless innings.

"I was thinking you have to stay aggressive," he said.

In the fifth inning, he walked Lo Duca and Beltran, who also his two homers in the second game on Friday, hit a home run into left field for a 6-3 lead. Manuel said Beltran was going to be Happ's last batter anyway, after the rookie threw 94 pitches.

"That's his first start in the major leagues, and he's facing a real good team with hitters," Manuel said. "They jumped on him early."

Beltran continued to hound the Phillies, achieving his 20th career multi-homerun game, hitting them from both sides of the plate. It was the second time he has had multiple home runs in back-to-back games, tying a club record. His four hits also tied a career high.

The Phillies offense was not much help yesterday, either.

Ryan Howard blasted a 450-foot home run to start the fourth inning and tied the game, 3-3.

But the Phillies managed just three more hits after that and no runs.

Mets starter Jorge Sosa had allowed just four hits and three runs when he left the game after five innings. He probably would have pitched longer but headed to the dugout after straining his left hamstring trying to run out a bunt.

Happ's demotion was one of a few roster changes the Phillies made yesterday.

The Phillies brought up Anderson Garcia, another rookie, in place of Happ. They also sent righthanded reliever Geoff Geary to triple-A Ottawa and put Gordon, a closer, on the 60-day disabled list.

Geary said he was caught off guard by the move but understood it. At one point, the righthander had stranded 17 of 18 runners on base. But since then, Geary allowed 10 of the next 17 runners he inherited to score.

Overall, he is 1-1 with a 7.5 ERA in five games this season.

"It's probably for the better," he said. "I'm going to go down there, and I'll see you guys soon."

Contact staff writer Shannon Ryan at 215-854-5503 or