Perhaps the third time will be a charm for Cliff Lee.
Philadelphia will send its veteran southpaw to the mound on Thursday to open a four-game series with Washington at Nationals Park, as Lee tries to put his command issues behind him.
Lee struggled again in his second start back from the disabled list on Saturday. He allowed nine hits, three runs, two walks and struck out four in five innings. Lee was on the DL for two months with a left elbow strain, and in his first start back on July 21, he faced similar issues with his location, allowing six runs in 5 2/3 innings while surrendering a career-high-tying 12 hits.
"Not a lot of difference from his first outing -- control, command, lack of real good pop," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said.
Lee posted a 3.18 ERA in the 10 starts he made prior to landing on the DL.
"Obviously, I would have liked to come back and pick right up where I left off, but I missed two months, so there's going to be a little rust there," Lee said. "As much as I ran and lifted weights and did everything I did in between, there's nothing that simulates actually going out there and playing the game. Doing that is going to get you back to where you need to be."
Meanwhile, Gio Gonzalez will be looking to set the tone for the series for the Nationals, who are fending off the Braves for first place in the NL East.
On Saturday, Gonzalez lasted seven innings, allowing one run on four hits and fanning eight. After having one of his worst outings against the Brewers last Sunday, Gonzalez decided to mimic teammates Doug Fister and Tanner Roark and work more quickly.
"It's working quick and try to pound the strike zone," said Gonzalez, who is 3-2 with a 2.30 ERA since returning from the DL on June 18. "Not trying to baby your pitches and just try to go out there and do your best, throw strikes."
Nationals: Detwiler earns bigger role; Blevins a lefty specialist
Nationals manager Matt Williams announced Tuesday that Ross Detwiler will have a bigger role out of the bullpen, while fellow left-hander Jerry Blevins will be more of a specialist.
Detwiler started the season as just a long reliever, but he has pitched well enough to throw in the late innings. In his last 10 games, the southpaw has a 1.23 ERA, while opponents are hitting .146 against him.
"Det has really come on and pitched well -- right or lefty -- with the exception of last night, when he gave up a couple of hits," Williams said Tuesday. "You never know what might present itself. It depends on that day and who's available and who's not potentially."
When the Nationals acquired Blevins from the Athletics, he had a reputation of getting lefties and righties out. But so far, right-handed hitters are 23-for-83 (.324) against him, while lefties are 8-for 66 (.121). The emergence of Detwiler has given Blevins a more specialized role.
"If we look at that, we would love to get [Blevins] in some lefty situations," Williams said.
Phillies: Private workout for Cuban outfielder Castillo
The Phillies held a private workout Tuesday in Clearwater, Fla., for Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo. Sandberg said he had watched some older video of the prospect and liked what he saw.
"A Marlon-Puig combination for a center fielder," Sandberg said, referring to Marlon Byrd and the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig.
Think the Phillies could use somebody like that?
"He looked pretty good," Sandberg said. "Kirby Puckett was the other one who came to mind."
The Phillies could find themselves in a bidding war if they liked what they saw. The Red Sox, Mariners and others are also having private workouts with Castillo.
• The Nationals lead the National League in run differential at plus-72 (438 for, 366 against).
• The Nats have placed at least 10 men on base safely -- hit, walk or hit by pitch -- in 20 consecutive games dating to July 5. That established a Washington Nationals club mark.
• The Nationals are 49-5 when scoring four or more runs. Conversely, they are just 9-42 when limited to three or fewer runs.
• Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown has been heating up at the plate over the last few weeks. Since July 8, he has hit safely in 12 of his 16 games, a span in which he is batting .286 with four doubles, two home runs and 10 RBIs.
Erik Bacharach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.