SAN DIEGO - Phillies reliever Jose Contreras has been placed on the disabled list with an elbow injury.

Contreras was diagnosed with a flexor pronator strain in his right elbow. Michael Stutes was called up from Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Contreras will return to Philadelphia to see team doctor Michael Ciccotti and could undergo an MRI. No timetable was given for his return.

He was injured while throwing 72 pitches in four games over a five-day stretch last week. A timetable for return won't be available until at least Tuesday.

It was apparent something was awry when the Phillies called on Antonio Bastrardo to save today's 3-1 win over the Padres. Contreras was in the bullpen with sneakers on and did not have his glove.

In Thursday's 3-0 victory, Contreras was forced to pitch for the fourth time in 5 days. He converted the save, his fifth straight to open the season, but he needed a season-high 26 pitches to do so, and afterward noticed some tenderness in his elbow.

"He had been pitching quite a bit," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "A little tender. He did a little better yesterday, and then today he felt some more soreness ... I think it was just the work that he's done. He didn't indicate it was one pitch, just over time, especially after his outing on Thursday."

Contreras, 39, has appeared in eight games this season. He has allowed four hits in eight innings pitched with nine strikeouts.

Contreras' injury means Ryan Madson moves to the closer's role. Madson was off today after pitching on four of the previous six days, but said he would be available to close Monday.

"Normal soreness and fatigue," said Madson, who has allowed one run with 10 strikeouts and two walks in nine innings. "The day I took off, the next day I felt 100 percent."

It also thins an already thinning bullpen. Closer Brad Lidge has been on the disabled list all season with a shoulder injury and is not expected back until June at the earliest. Lefthander J.C. Romero is on the disabled list with a calf injury.

Stutes seemingly had a chance to make the big-league roster out of spring training. He is 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA in seven appearances for the IronPigs. He has allowed nine hits with 14 strikeouts in 10 innings.

"It's thin," Amaro said. "It is what it is."

Daily News sports writer David Murphy contributed to this report.