Thome has strained lower back

NEW YORK -- First baseman Jim Thome and center fielder Kenny Lofton were placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday, leaving the
slumping Philadelphia Phillies without two key hitters.

The team recalled Ryan Howard and Marlon Byrd from Triple-A
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to fill in. Byrd was Philadelphia's opening
day center fielder the past two years. Howard is one of the premier
power-hitting prospects in baseball and will get a chance to play
regularly at first base in Thome's absence.

"This is a good time for us to look at him. This is ideal. He
adds more power to our lineup, which we need," manager Charlie
Manuel said. "He's got a lot of power. Kind of like a Willie
Stargell type of player. He's got the potential to be really

Bothered by a stiff back since spring training, Thome was off to
a terrible start, hitting just .203 with one home run and 12 RBIss
in 79 at-bats. The four-time All-Star, who has 424 career homers,
went back to Philadelphia late Monday night and had an MRI exam
Tuesday. He will have a CT scan Wednesday.

Thome was put on the DL retroactive to Sunday.

"Hopefully, it will just be two weeks," Manuel said. "During
spring training his back was stiff, always bothering him. I would
ask him if he could play and he would always tell me yes. Finally,
it got to the point where it started bothering him a lot."

Manuel said he spoke to general manager Ed Wade about Thome's
condition, but Wade never mentioned a need for surgery.

The speedy Lofton has a strained right hamstring. He was hitting
.373 with a homer, four RBIss and nine runs scored in 51 at-bats.

Byrd was hitting .390 in spring training before dislocating his
right ring finger on March 20. He batted .228 with five homers and
33 RBIss in 106 games with the Phillies last year. He will join the
team Wednesday.

The 25-year-old Howard arrived in time for Tuesday night's game
against the New York Mets, but was not in the starting lineup.
Tomas Perez started at first base, batting seventh.

At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Howard had 46 home runs and 131 RBIss
in 131 minor league games last season at Double-A and Triple-A. He
also hit two homers in 39 at-bats with Philadelphia.

The last-place Phillies had lost nine of 13 going into Tuesday's
game and ranked 15th out of 16 NL teams in slugging percentage at
.363. They had a .251 team batting average, 12th in the league, and
102 runs, 14th in the NL.

"The same team scored 840 runs last year, and that's not bad,"
Manuel said. "Actually, we got off to a pretty good start the
first 10 or 11 games. But we ran into some real good pitching."