ATLANTA -- The Phillies opened Spring Training in February with Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras in the back of their bullpen.
Only Madson remains.
But the Phillies see light at the end of the tunnel. Contreras, who is on the disabled list with a strained right flexor pronator tendon, threw a bullpen session Sunday at Turner Field, and could begin a rehab assignment in the middle of the week.
"He's making pretty good progress," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said.
Lidge, who is on the DL with a strained right posterior rotator cuff, could throw off a mound when the team returns to Philadelphia this week. Lidge said he remains optimistic he can rejoin the bullpen before the end of June.
"It's frustrating it takes so long," Lidge said. "At the same time I can tell things are working. My shoulder feels really good. I'm going to stick with the program. On my end I'll try to push them, but I'm sure they'll hold me back and be smart. It's tough watching this many games, you want to be out there competing."
Madson is having an All-Star caliber season, which has saved the bullpen. He is 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA and six saves in six opportunities. He has allowed just nine hits, six walks and one run in 16 innings. He has struck out 19.
So what happens when Contreras comes back?
"I'm not sure how things will go," Amaro said. "Charlie [Manuel] will probably go with the guy he feels can do the job that day. That may end up being guys mixing and matching. We may have to wait and see if Contreras is effective enough to drop back into that closer's role. That's a good problem to have if they're both pitching well. I'd rather have it go that way."
And when Lidge returns?
"If all three of those guys come back and pitch like they're closers?" Amaro said. "I'll take it. Who's to say if and when Lidge comes back he can only pitch two days in a row? Who knows what his health is going to be like once he comes back? That would be helpful to have that kind of depth. I wouldn't mind that at all."
Madson is a free agent after the season. Amaro said it is possible they could talk about a contract extension with Madson before the end of the season. But Madson's agent is Scott Boras, and if Madson keeps pitching like he has, Boras almost certainly will recommend that Madson test the open market.