CHICAGO -- Ben Francisco is getting just his 11th start of the season on Sunday in left field for Raul Ibanez. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said the move was just to get Francisco some at-bats to stay sharp.
"Today I just wanted to get Francisco in the game," Manuel said. "I just think every now and then, I like getting him in the game. He comes up and pinch-hits for us, too. He's got to get in the game every now and then."
The fact that the Cubs are trotting out left-hander Tom Gorzelanny also had a role in the decision, because Francisco has less of a platoon split than the Ibanez.
For the season, Ibanez is batting .217 against southpaws and .261 against righties. Francisco's platoon splits are within 10 points of each other around .230.
Victorino slugging at accelerated rate
CHICAGO -- With a solo blast on Friday, Shane Victorino hit his 15th home run of the season. While that might not seem especially large, it does represent a career high for Victorino.
That's rather surprising, considering the season is just over halfway completed.
"Don't get too excited," Victorino joked when asked about the career high. "I don't want it to get too far."
His previous high of 14 was reached in 2008. For his career, Victorino has usually hovered around 12 home runs per season, so 15 through 90 games would qualify as a major step up.
"Just 'See ball, hit ball,'" Victorino said. "I'm not going up there trying to do anything differently. It's just one of those things where it happened that way right now. We still got a long way to go."
Despite the slugging prowess, Victorino maintained that he hasn't been aiming to hit with more power and would sacrifice that for a few points on his batting average.
"It frustrates me that my average is not where I want it to be, but that's part of the game sometimes," Victorino said. "You just keep working, and hopefully I can bring my average up and keep doing what I've been doing."
If the season ended Sunday, Victorino's .254 average would be the lowest average he has had with the Phillies by 27 points -- so while the numbers show he shouldn't hit for much more power to balance out, they also suggest he will hit for more average in the second half of the season.
Comfort in role may be issue for Contreras
CHICAGO -- Jose Contreras has been struggling of late. After allowing one run in his first 16 innings when the Phillies' bullpen was stretched thin, Contreras has sank back to the pack.
His last outing was two-thirds of an inning -- a disaster in which he gave up five hits and five earned runs. Those five runs turned out to be significant when the Phillies made a mini-comeback in the ninth, but were too far behind to overcome Contreras' missteps.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has noticed a decline in Contreras over the last two months.
"Sometimes his stuff is not as good," Manuel said. "He doesn't hold his stuff as good [as he did before]. His command is not quite as good."
Manuel is not ready to give up on Contreras as a reliver; however, he believes that Contreras is still getting used to coming out of the bullpen -- a large change for someone who has been a starting pitcher for most of his career.
"It's also as the season goes on, what we're trying to do, where he's at and his role we tried to put him in -- he still hasn't gotten really comfortable and he hasn't really excelled in that role yet," Manuel said. "That's part of him having been a starter and having done that."
For the season, Contreras sports a respectable 4.25 ERA over 36 relief appearances.
Manuel holds everyday players in high regard
CHICAGO -- Sunday's night game against the Cubs marks the end of the first series of a spell for the Phillies in which they play 18 games in 18 days.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel isn't looking to give his primary starters rest, though, despite the long streak.
"If [a player] is going to play 120 games, then he isn't an everyday player," Manuel said. "An everyday player is very special. A lot of times, a guy that can play every day is a pretty special player."
Manuel's lineups generally follow this principle -- through 90 games, Ryan Howard has started all 90. Of the players on the roster, four players have started 80 or more games.
"If they come and tell you they've got to have two days a week off, then they're not an everyday player," Manuel said.
Louie Horvath is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.