PHILADELPHIA -- Hunter Pence's left knee isn't quite as famous as Chase Utley's right knee, but it is close.

Pence had a MRI exam Wednesday after he started limping in Game 1 of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies said Pence has a mild strain of the patellar tendon and is day to day.

He is expected to play sometime this weekend against the Mets in New York.

"I feel good," Pence said. "I never really thought I needed a MRI. Hopefully I'm able to pinch-hit. I'm able to swing. A day [off] here, we'll see [Thursday]. I've had it before. I can play on it. ... I could play today, but we're trying to make the best decision. And we feel like this is best."

It made sense to keep Pence out of Wednesday's lineup with Game 1 of the National League Division Series just 10 days away. Pence sounded confident this is a minor issue and will not carry into the playoffs.

"I'll be fine," he said.

"He's had it for a long time," Phils manager Charlie Manuel said. "He's been playing, but evidently someone thought it was too serious for him to continue and wanted to give him some rest."

Manuel wants players rested, but not rusty

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is trying to get enough players rest without going into the postseason ice cold.

It's a fine line to walk.

"I think baseball is a momentum game, and I think that we need to get on the field and put together some good games and feel good about ourselves going into the playoffs," he said.

"When someone starts dictating how much a person can play, there's questions I want to ask. We definitely need to have our team ready and I plan on our team being ready."

Howard improving after cortisone injection

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard said he is feeling better after receiving a cortisone injection into the left bursa sac in his left ankle Monday.

Howard has had soreness in the ankle for weeks, and the hope is the shot has him feeling his best for the postseason.

"I think he will be back for the next series," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

Hamels to start Friday, with Doc going Sunday

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies have lined up their rotation for this weekend's three-game series against the Mets.

It will be Cole Hamels on Friday, TBA on Saturday and Roy Halladay on Sunday. In Atlanta, it likely will be Cliff Lee on Monday, Roy Oswalt on Tuesday and Hamels on Wednesday.

The Phils are expected to have a bullpen game Saturday against the Mets, with Kyle Kendrick likely to pitch in relief. Candidates to start include Michael Schwimer and David Herndon.