Brad Lidge's first bullpen session of the spring drew plenty of observers. Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel wasn't one of them.
"The hitters are here," pitching coach Rich Dubee joked.
While Manuel watched Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and other Phillies take their cuts, Lidge took his first step toward returning from offseason surgeries on his elbow and knee.
"We have to build some arm strength first, and the rest of my body is doing great," Lidge said Monday. "I feel happy about that now."
Lidge threw 20 pitches _ all fastballs _ off a mound. Dubee said the closer will probably take two days off before throwing again.
"Brad looked fine," Dubee said. "One thing we want to make sure is he doesn't skip from step one to step five."
It's far too early to know whether Lidge will be ready when the NL champion Phillies open the season at Washington on April 5. Lidge said last week he was two weeks behind schedule, but he's making progress.
"I'd say I'm right about the same," he said. "I feel I'm right ahead of that two weeks. With the bullpen today, I kind of stayed right there. I didn't come out and feel 100 percent. That being said, nothing hurts and I was able to use my body in the way I was hoping to this year without having any pain or side effects. It's all about building arm strength now and I'm going to have to do a lot of work to get that."
Lidge was a perfect 48 for 48 in save chances in 2008, helping the Phillies win the World Series. But he led the majors with 11 blown saves last year and finished 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA in the regular season.
Injuries were certainly a factor in Lidge's decline. The knee pain caused him to change his mechanics. He put more pressure on his right arm, leading to the elbow problem.
Lidge bounced back in the first two rounds of the playoffs, going 1-0 with three saves in as many tries. He didn't allow a run in five appearances and gave up just one hit in four innings.
But he struggled in his only outing against the New York Yankees in the World Series. He gave up three runs in the ninth in a 7-4 loss in Game 4 as the Yankees took a 3-1 series lead. They won in six games.
"I tried this winter not to think at all about what I was doing in 2009 and instead getting back to just driving the ball like I did in 2008 and every year before," Lidge said. "Fortunately for me that muscle memory seemed to pick up right away and today I was able to do that off a mound."
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