Willis hopes to return this week

Dontrelle Willis could pitch in a Grapefruit League game as early as Thursday. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The clock is ticking on Dontrelle Willis' chance at making the Phillies as a lefthanded reliever. He last pitched Wednesday and has only played catch in the days following a disastrous outing in which he complained of arm soreness.

But Willis believes he'll be back on the mound shortly. He played long toss Monday morning and could throw a live batting practice session Tuesday so long as the arm soreness does not recur. And if that all goes well, he could pitch in a Grapefruit League game as early as Thursday.

"I feel great," Willis said. "They have me doing some things to keep me strong. It's actually a blessing in disguise. That's the one thing about your body: Something could be fatigued and it can cause problems. It's been feeling great."

Willis has pitched 1 2/3 innings and allowed five runs on five hits with three walks and no strikeouts. He is already guaranteed 30 days' pay of his $850,000 contract (approximately $150,000). On Saturday, the guaranteed figure increases to 45 days' pay, resulting in another $60,000 or so if he's still on the roster.

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