CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Roy Halladay finished a lengthy news conference last month at Bright House Field with the following comment:

"I know Chase suggested drilling a few guys this year so I might mix that in."

He seems to have taken that suggestion to heart. After Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg hit Chase Utley with a pitch on his left foot in the third inning Wednesday at Bright House Field, Halladay threw behind Nationals designated hitter Tyler Moore's back in the fourth inning.

"Yeah, that one slipped a little bit," said Halladay, easing out a slight smile. "It slipped. That's not necessarily the case, but I think we do need to protect our guys to an extent. I'm not saying that's what happened. It slipped, but I think that's important. We've had a lot of guys hit over the years. I think as a staff we need to do a good job of protecting those guys. Spring Training, I don't think you're necessarily trying to do it. But it wouldn't have been the worst thing had it got him after getting one of our good guys."

The Phillies did not think Strasburg threw at Utley intentionally, but Halladay wanted to let people know in the future he would have his hitters' backs.

The Nationals seemed puzzled by the gesture.

"Obviously you could tell the conditions weren't great," Strasburg said. "I yanked it in there. It's Spring Training. If you're going to throw at someone or send a message in Spring Training, go ahead."

When Nationals manager Davey Johnson asked Moore if there is a history between the two, Moore replied, "There is now."

The Phillies and Nationals play their first series of the regular season May 24-26 at Nationals Park. It could be a fun one. The Nationals are the defending National League East champions, while the Phillies are trying to get back on top after missing the postseason last year for the first time since 2006. The two teams already started a little history with Cole Hamels drilling Bryce Harper with a pitch early last season, setting off Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, who criticized Hamels.

Utley said afterward he appreciates pitchers protecting the hitters.

"I think we're all fighting for the same thing," he said. "We all want to win. I think, as a hitter, the more uncomfortable you are the more difficult it is to hit. But getting hit is part of the game."

Added Halladay: "Nobody should ever get hurt. You never want to intentionally hurt guys, but I think there's definitely a part of the game where you make sure your guys are taken care of, and other teams don't feel like they can hit them at will ... but that's regular season stuff. … I just think that we have a lot of guys that get hit. And I know our guys are on top of the plate and they're aggressive. Nobody is ever going to let them be comfortable if they're going to be right on the plate, but I think there's definitely a time and a place if our guys are getting beat up for having success, then I think that's something that should be addressed."

Utley has been hit a Major League-leading 143 times from 2005-12. Carlos Ruiz is tied for eighth with 32 hit by pitches from 2010-12.

"You're supposed to take care of your hitters," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "When he says something like that, I like it. But Roy isn't a big vocal guy. But he doesn't have to be, either. He definitely leads by example -- the way he carries himself, how he pitches and what he does."

Utley, who missed the last two springs because of chronically injured knees, remained in the game. He has been healthy all spring.

"Great, he's been great," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "I haven't heard anything from the trainers about him or the doctors. No news is good news."

Joseph holds his own in batter's box, behind plate

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies catcher Tommy Joseph had a pretty good day Wednesday at Bright House Field.

He caught nine innings in a 6-3 victory over the Nationals. He went 3-for-4, including a pair of singles against Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg, who only happens to be one of the best pitchers on the planet. He also doubled in the sixth. He caught four scoreless innings for Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay, who is pretty particular about his catchers.

"It was awesome," Joseph said. "I got to catch a couple of his bullpens. And then to bring him into a game and do what I got to do was special. It was a lot of fun."

Halladay praised the Phillies' prospect.

"He wanted to talk a lot in between innings, which really isn't my thing," Halladay said with a laugh. "But I didn't mind it because he was trying to get a feel for what I wanted to do. I thought he did a great job. He was very on top of things. He was aware of what was going on in the game and the situations. That's what you want to see."

Said Joseph: "Yeah, I tried to talk to him between every inning, just to see how he was feeling, see what he wanted to do the next inning. I was kind of scared at first. I was like, I don't know if he really wants to talk to me. But after a while, as the innings went on, I felt more comfortable."

Joseph is the organization's top position player prospect, according to MLB.com's rankings. He has been impressive in camp.

"He's got to get used to Roy," pitching coach Rich Dubee said about Joseph. "That takes stones. That's good for a catcher. That's leadership. You got a two-time Cy Young guy who's got over 200 wins and he's confident enough to go up there and talk to him. Roy might not be the perfect guy ... but that's good."

Competition for bullpen spots still an open race

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies have three job openings in the bullpen, and it remains anybody's game.

"It's open," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "No one has really stepped up other than maybe [Phillippe] Aumont a little bit. Aumont has pitched as well as anybody, and it looks like he's got a good demeanor. He's confident on the mound. That's good. I think [Raul] Valdes took another step forward. We'll see how [Jeremy] Horst pitches the next time out. I have confidence in Horst because he pitched so well for us last year. He's going to have a little bit of an edge over some of the other guys, naturally. But things are open."

Worth noting

• Ryan Howard, Domonic Brown and Laynce Nix got hits consecutively against Nationals left-hander Fernando Abad in the fifth inning. It led to two runs.

• Antonio Bastardo, Justin De Fratus and Jake Diekman each threw a scoreless inning. Chad Durbin allowed three runs in one inning.

• Infielder Freddy Galvis played third base Wednesday. The Phillies will play him there a bit more this spring as they try to judge if he is capable of being one of their two utility infielders.

• Team USA never contacted the Phillies about having Howard replace injured first baseman Mark Teixeira on its roster for the World Baseball Classic. Howard played in his 13th Spring Training game in 13 days Wednesday.

• The Phillies announced their broadcasting schedule on Wednesday. Comcast SportsNet will carry 101 games, including the home opener April 5 against Kansas City. PHL17 will carry 45 games, including the season opener April 1 against Atlanta. ESPN has picked up one Sunday game, while FOX will broadcast six Saturday games. All games can be heard on the radio: 1210-AM WPHT and 94 WIP on FM. Games will air in Spanish on WTTM 1680 AM, Monday through Friday. Fans can also access a list of all Phillies Radio Network affiliates on phillies.com.