J.C. Romero, Brad Lidge test arms
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- In 2008, they comprised the back end of the best bullpen in baseball on the season's best team.
After a winter filled with surgeries and soul-searching, the two were back on neighboring mounds Sunday in the Phillies' bullpen for the first time in a long while.
Romero threw off the hill for the first time since elbow surgery in October to repair a torn flexor tendon, while Lidge experimented with his noted slider for the first time since elbow and knee surgeries in the offseason.
Romero threw 23 pitches, all fastballs, and Lidge threw 35.
They are still behind the rest of the pitchers in camp as far as their workout schedules are concerned, and both could miss the opening week or two of the season. However, both remain optimistic that they can fly north with the defending National League champions for Opening Day.
"I want to be ready when the season starts," Romero said. "I have to be realistic because I know I'm a little behind as far as the schedule goes, but I'm a very positive person ... and my goal is to break camp with the team. I am very optimistic about it right now."
Romero will throw again Wednesday and is expected to up his pitch total to around 30. Lidge will throw again Tuesday, falling into an every-other-day routine.
"Each time, I'm throwing a little better than before," Lidge said. "It's going up a click or two each time. With that said, though, I started out at a very low point. Hopefully, one of these times it'll be a bigger jump. Now that I'm throwing [more regularly] it'll be a lot easier to build the arm strength more. Instead of being careful, I can be more aggressive."
Pitching coach Rich Dubee called their performances "fine" and said both pitchers "looked good," but wouldn't elaborate further.
The duo are an integral part of the Phillies' bullpen and were two key ingredients during the team's march to the World Series title in 2008.
They both endured rocky 2009 seasons, filled with injuries and suspensions. The Phillies hope the two can return to form in an effort to help the Phillies become the first National League team in more than 60 years to reach the World Series in three consecutive seasons.
After a perfect 2008 in which he converted each of his 48 save opportunities, Lidge was anything but perfect last season. He was 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA, allowed 11 home runs and led the majors with 11 blown saves.
Romero missed the first 50 games of the 2009 season after a supplement he bought over the counter at a New Jersey GNC store was deemed to have a banned substance, androstendione, that Romero maintains he ingested unknowingly. He followed that with an injury-riddled season in which he tossed only 16.2 innings as he dealt with a torn flexor tendon that required surgery.
"I learned a lot [last year], not only about myself but about life period," Romero said. "2009 was a very tough year for me. It was a real learning experience. But I found out that as you get older, less is more. I figured out I have to do less.
"I went into this offseason with the mentality of having to do the things I had to do to get on the mound quicker, and now here I am trying to get back as soon as I can."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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