Lidge on schedule to return opening day

Both Brad Lidge and the Phillies were ecstatic with the way he pitched in a bullpen session this morning, and both sides think he is on pace to pitch in the season opener if necesary.

"That's the goal still, and based on today, I'd say we moved a good step closer to that," said Lidge, who injured himself during live batting practice Feb 23.  "Barring any setbacks, I think that's a very realistic goal."

The right-handed closer, obtained this offseason in a five-player trade with the Houston Astros, had arthroscopic surgery on his right (plant) knee two weeks ago today. The original timetable for his return to competitive game action was 3-to-6 weeks, but Lidge appears to be on the earlier side of that. He'll throw off the mound again Wednesday, at which point he expects to be ready to face live hitters.

He could face hitters as soon as Friday.

Today, he looked sharp. All of his velocity appeared to be present, as evidenced by the loud smacking of the catchers mitt that followed each pitch.Lidge threw 25 pitches and reported no discomfort in the knee. An MRI two weeks ago revealed small tears in the meniscus. Doctor Michael Ciccotti removed a portion of the cartilage to combat the injury.

"I'm definitely relieved that I didn't feel anything pitching," Lidge said. "Obviously, the last time I was on the mound, I wasn't feeling real good. What was really surprising to me is a I didn't feel anything at all, so that's very encouraging."

Pitching coach Rich Dubee labelled the session a success.

"He was very impressive," Dubee said.

"I felt pretty positive going into it, just the way his leg has responded when he's played flat ground and long toss," Dubee said. "I felt pretty good coming in and watching him throwing as naturally as he did makes us feel great."


Kris Benson also threw today, and all signs were positive. Benson said he thinks he and the Phillies are on the same page, and that he expects to be with the team during the season.