NEW YORK -- Chase Utley inched closer to his return to the big leagues, going 0-for-3 in his second rehab game for Class A Clearwater on Sunday.

Utley grounded into a double play, grounded out to third and flied out to left, also committing an error in seven innings at second base.

Utley is scheduled to play both games of Clearwater's doubleheader on Monday, likely serving as the designated hitter for the second game. Asked if he could be with the big club on Tuesday, manager Charlie Manuel said it was "a probability."

"I think he'll let us know," Manuel said. "I trust him. I definitely think he'll be very truthful to us."

Assistant general manager Scott Proefrock wasn't quite as forthcoming about a possible Tuesday return for Utley.

"We're going to reevaluate him after the games tomorrow, and we'll go from there. It's a day-to-day thing," Proefrock said, adding that the team needed to see Utley "swing the bat with authority."

Utley has been out of the lineup since June 28 with a right thumb sprain. Philadelphia has more than tread water since, going 25-17 with Wilson Valdez getting most of the playing time at second base. Utley is batting .277 with 11 home runs and 37 RBIs in 72 games this season.

Manuel warned, however, that even with the rehab assignment, it might take Utley a little while to regain his stroke at the plate.

"Sometimes it takes you a while," Manuel said, alluding to the stuggles Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran has endured in his return to the lineup since the All-Star break. "Hopefully Utley's strong and he comes out hitting. That's what I'm hoping for."

Tuesday return for Howard may be 'reach'

NEW YORK -- The Phillies remain hopeful that Chase Utley can be back in the lineup for Tuesday's series opener with the Giants. They are not as optimistic about Ryan Howard's availability.

After working out on his sprained left ankle on Saturday, Howard was a little sore on Sunday. The rain at Citi Field prevented him from doing any further work on the field before Sunday night's game.

"Our trainer thinks Howard's doing well," manager Charlie Manuel said. "But at the same time, he thinks Tuesday or Wednesday might be a reach."

Assistant general manager Scott Proefrock felt the same way.

"He's making progress," Proefrock said. "But I don't think we're looking at Tuesday as when he's going to be back."

Manuel and Proefrock did diverge on whether Howard would require a rehab assignment before rejoining the Phillies. Manuel said Howard never has been a player that needed a lot of extra hitting, and that it's "reasonable" for the first baseman to come back without facing pitching in the Minors.

Proefrock, on the other hand, envisioned a rehab assignment for Howard.

"At this point, I think he's going to need some sort of rehab, and he's not even ready for that," Proefrock said.

Because the Phillies have been able to still close ground on the first-place Braves without the right side of their infield, they're remaining cautious with Utley and Howard.

"With all these guys, we're not going to put them in a situation when they're not ready to play," Proefrock said. "We want them for the rest of the season. We don't want them back intermittently."

Dobbs gets first start of year at first base

NEW YORK -- With Ross Gload nursing a strained right groin, Greg Dobbs got the nod at first base for Sunday night's rubber game with the Mets.

It is Dobbs' first start since July 30, and his first of the season at first base, where he's played a total of five innings this season. Dobbs has started 19 games in his career at first.

"I'm alright with him there," manager Charlie Manuel said. "That's where we used to play him."

Make no mistake, Dobbs is in there for his offense. Manuel cited his 7-for-13 record against starter Mike Pelfrey. Those numbers include a home run and a double.

The news isn't great for Gload, who Manuel thought might be available to pinch-hit on Saturday. That's not the case on Sunday, with Manuel saying he wasn't sure Gload would be able to run to first base if he put the ball in play.

"Gload's not 100 percent," Manuel said. "[The disabled list] is a possibility. We'll see if we start getting Utley and Howard back. That could be something we might do if he's not ready to go [on Tuesday]."