PITTSBURGH -- Jim Thome almost bounced out of the visitors' clubhouse late Sunday morning at PNC Park.

"How can you not be excited?" he said. "This is what it's all about."

Thome found himself in the starting lineup and playing first base in the series finale against the Pirates. It was the first time he started a game at first base since June 13, 2007, when he played for the Chicago White Sox. It was the first time he started a game at first base for the Phillies since June 30, 2005, when he was in a lineup that included Kenny Lofton, Endy Chavez, Tomas Perez, Todd Pratt and Jon Lieber.

It has been a while.

"I know," Thome chuckled.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said he started Thome because he simply wanted to get the veteran some at-bats, and because Thome had faced Pirates right-hander James McDonald in Spring Training. But Thome went 0-for-3, although he turned a nice 3-6-3 double play in the fourth inning.

There has been some thought that Thome, who has a history of back problems, might be able to play first base more than once a week, but Manuel said Thome will not be in the starting lineup for Monday's home opener at Citizens Bank Park.

"It's too early to start playing him two days in a row," Manuel said. "I don't want to do that, really."

Phillies deem Qualls unavailable out of 'pen

PITTSBURGH -- Phillies right-hander Chad Qualls was unavailable to pitch Sunday because of soreness in his right heel.

He said he first felt discomfort in the heel before pitching one inning Saturday at PNC Park.

"It kind of felt like a knife was going in the back of my heel," Qualls said. "I threw yesterday with it, but I really couldn't move too well. It was still really bugging me, trying to walk today. So they just said they were going to try to stay away from me today. Hopefully it's nothing too big. If I had to, I could have gone out there and thrown, but I think being this early in the season, they just want to be cautious."

Qualls said he will see the team doctor Monday.

"I really don't know what it is," he said.

Manuel spreading lineup love among Phillies

PITTSBURGH -- Phillies manager Charlie Manuel promised he would use a lot of lineups early this season, and he is holding true to his word.

He started Juan Pierre in left field, Jim Thome at first base, Ty Wigginton at third base and Brian Schneider at catcher in Sunday's series finale against the Pirates at PNC Park.

"I'm looking to get our guys in a game," Manuel said. "It's early. We've only played three games, but it's important we get people in there. After today, [Pete] Orr will be the only guy not to play, unless he gets in the game before the day is over. It's very important to get guys in the game, and have our new guys get used to being on the field."

Placido Polanco got a day off. The Phillies have said they will try to give him occasional breaks to keep him healthy in the long run.

"He's off, but he's available," Manuel said. "So is [John] Mayberry. So is Chooch [Carlos Ruiz]. It's not like we can't put them in the lineup later on in the game."

Worth noting

• Right-hander Jose Contreras, who is rehabbing from right elbow surgery, is scheduled to make a rehab appearance Monday for Class A Clearwater. He is eligible to be activated before Wednesday's game against Miami, but that is unlikely.

• Right-hander Joe Blanton, who pitched an inning in Saturday's loss, is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Monday. He will start Thursday against Miami.