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Phils hope sluggers see some Interleague action

CHICAGO -- Jim Thome and Ryan Howard scanned the lineup card tacked to the bulletin board one March morning at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla.

Howard was not on the list, which was not a surprise considering he was recovering from left Achilles surgery. Thome was.

"You know what I'm looking forward to?" Thome said.

"What?" Howard replied.

"The two of us in the lineup in June," Thome said, referring to the team's Interleague schedule.

"That'd be great," Howard replied.

"You know what I'm looking forward to even more?" Thome said. "Both of us in the lineup in October."

The World Series is five months away and the Phillies are struggling to play .500 baseball, but Interleague Play begins Friday with a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox at Citizens Bank Park. It continues next month with a nine-game road trip through Baltimore, Minnesota and Toronto before finishing up with a series at home against Tampa Bay.

It remains to be seen if Howard or Thome will be in the lineup come June. Both are on the disabled list. Howard is still recovering from the surgery, and Thome is recovering from a strained lower back. If neither is back, the Phillies could use Ty Wigginton, Laynce Nix or John Mayberry Jr. as their designated hitter.

Charlie Manuel will keep his fingers crossed that at least one of them will be back.

Here is a look at the Phillies in Interleague Play:

Players to watch
Jonathan Papelbon, P: If the Phillies need their closer, he should be more than familiar with the compettion. This will be Papelbon's first turn in Interleague Play as a member of the National League.
Cole Hamels, P: Hamels has not enjoyed Interleague Play too much. He is 5-10 with a 4.21 ERA in 19 regular-season starts against the American League.
Shane Victorino, CF: Victorino has fared pretty well against the American League, with an .821 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in Interleague Play compared to a .779 OPS overall in his career.

Last year: The Phillies finished 9-6 in Interleague Play, winning series against Texas, Oakland, Boston and Toronto and losing to Seattle.

All-time: Interleague Play has not been kind to the Phillies over the years. They are 115-135 against the American League, although they are 19-14 against the AL over the last two seasons.

vs. Red Sox, May 18-20: In recent years, this series has been billed as a potential World Series preview, but this season, both teams are struggling to play .500 baseball. The Phillies are 19-27 against the Red Sox in Interleague Play.

@ Orioles, June 8-10: The Orioles are just down the road from the Phillies, but it is the first time Philadelphia has been in Camden Yards since 2006. The Phillies and Orioles have played just three games since, but have met 45 times overall in Interleague Play. The Phillies are 21-24 against Baltimore.

@ Twins, June 12-14: The Phillies have played in Minnesota just once, but that was at the Metrodome in 2004. This will be the Phillies' first trip to Target Field, which has gotten rave reviews.

@ Blue Jays, June 15-17: Roy Halladay faced his former team in Toronto for the first time last July, so if it happens again it should be less of a distraction for him. The Phillies are 18-18 against the Blue Jays.

vs. Rays, June 22-24: This will be Tampa Bay's first trip to Citizens Bank Park since Brad Lidge struck out Eric Hinske to record the final out in Game 5 of the 2008 World Series. The Phillies are 6-12 against the Rays in the regular season.

Philadelphia Phillies, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon, Jim Thome, Shane Victorino