WASHINGTON - After Pedro Feliz loosened up in the batting cage Sunday before the Phillies' 12-10 win over the Braves, manager Charlie Manuel thought he was on the verge of being able to return to action. Two days later, the veteran third baseman was placed on the 15-day disabled list with what the team is calling lower back inflammation. Feliz made the trip to Washington, but his back had worsened since Sunday, and the team sent him back to Philadelphia to be examined by Dr. Michael Ciccotti.

"Today when he came to the ballpark you could tell he was hurting," Manuel said.

Manuel said Feliz told him the back pain began when the team played at Texas in late June, but that it wasn't bad enough to prevent him from playing.

Feliz, who is hitting .256 with 12 home runs and 46 RBI, hadn't played since going 0-for-4 against the Mets on July 24.

Greg Dobbs started at third last night, but Manuel said he may use a combination of Dobbs and fellow utility infielder Eric Bruntlett at the position.

The team will know more about Feliz' condition after he visits Ciccotti. He will be eligible to be activated from the disabled list on Aug. 9. *