Contreras to pitch in minor-league game Monday

Phillies pitcher Jose Contreras is still recovering from elbow surgery last September. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Jose Contreras said he will pitch in a minor-league game Monday, marking his first game action of the spring.

The 40-year-old Cuban is recovering from elbow surgery last September, and Phillies officials believe he can be ready for opening day. Exactly how ready will be the imperative question. The Phillies have padded his throwing schedule with extra days.

Contreras pitched eight times in 20 days last April before needing time on the disabled list. During that period, he appeared on back-to-back days twice. That's a workload that could be significantly reduced in an attempt to keep him around longer.

It's possible Jim Thome is Contreras' first baseman Monday. Charlie Manuel wants Thome to hone his defensive game in the low-pressure environment at minor-league camp.

The Phillies want an idea of how feasible the idea is, considering Thome has played only 20 innings in the field the last six years.

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