PHILADELPHIA -- Coming off a nightmare of a road trip, the Phillies were four games below .500 and entered Monday 8 1/2 games back of first place in their division.
However, "underachieving" is not a label manager Charlie Manuel would use to describe his club.
"No, I don't," Manuel said when asked if he thought his team has underachieved to this point in the season. "As a matter of fact, we might be playing as good or better than we could play. We'll see."
The Phillies do have an offense that struggles to score runs and a bullpen that opponents feast on, but with a plethora of injuries, Manuel has had to use some makeshift lineups that make the Opening Day batting order look foreign.
While the team had lost seven of nine and had a 33-37 record entering Monday, it could be worse. The Phillies have a minus-49 run differential -- which tied them with the Dodgers for the third-worst mark in the National League.
Manuel said he thinks if his team can get to .500 or even a few games better by the All-Star break in four weeks, it will have a chance to make a second-half push.
"We have to start playing a lot better baseball," Manuel said. "If that's overachieving, that's what we have to do."
Utley nearing rehab stint; Ruiz nearing return
PHILADELPHIA -- Chase Utley took swings toward the end of the Phillies' batting practice Monday, and it may not be too long before he is doing the same thing in a game at Citizens Bank Park.
The second baseman has been on the disabled list since he strained his right oblique four weeks ago, but he is planning to go on a rehab assignment by Wednesday. Utley said he does not have a timetable on how long he would need before he rejoined the Phillies, and noted it's all about how he feels during his rehab stint.
"I don't want to rush back," Utley said. "I want to make sure I don't reinjure it. I have to play it smart."
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. also said he was unsure how long Utley's assignment would take, but he guessed it would be "a couple of games."
Utley, who has not played since May 20, has been doing some activities like fielding grounders for more than two weeks, but he held off on motions that are more stressful on the oblique -- like throwing and swinging -- until the last week. The five-time All-Star said everything has gone well since he's starting taking cuts again.
"I feel more comfortable doing it [now]," Utley said. "When I started swinging, I was obviously a little apprehensive, but it's worn off."
Utley is hitting .272 with seven homers and 25 RBIs in 44 games this season.
In other Phillies injury news, there is a good chance catcher Carlos Ruiz could be back with the team in the near future.
Ruiz strained his right hamstring while running the bases on May 19, but played a game for Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Saturday. The 34-year-old originally said he was aiming at rejoining the Phillies by this Friday, and Amaro said it may happen even sooner.
"Chooch did very well. We may move his timetable up a little bit, we may not," Amaro said. "We'll talk to him again after today's workout and see how he's feeling. There's a possibility we can be a little quicker on him. He's doing well."
Ruiz's return would be a big lift to the Phillies as his backup, Erik Kratz, injured his knee on June 8 and is also on the disabled list.
Lefty Horst placed on DL with strained elbow
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies placed left-handed reliever Jeremy Horst on the disabled list Monday with a strained left elbow.
"I guess he felt something a couple of days ago, or three days ago, and it kind of bothered him," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He came back and pitched in Colorado, and this morning he wasn't feeling very good."
The move allowed a spot on the 25-man roster for John Lannan, who started Monday against the Nationals.
Horst last pitched on Saturday against the Rockies and allowed three runs in one inning of work. The 27-year-old has not been reliable out of the Phillies bullpen in 2013. Horst has a 6.23 ERA and has surrendered at least one earned run in 10 of his 28 appearances.
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.