Contreras' return to bullpen may come soon

Contreras' return to bullpen may come soon

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies' bullpen could get a little deeper before the team begins a West Coast swing in San Francisco on Monday.

Right-hander Jose Contreras, who began the 2011 season as the closer and was 5-for-5 in save opportunities before being shut down with a strained right forearm, pitched back-to-back for the first time since undergoing surgery on his elbow in September, throwing on Friday night in a rehab assignment at Clearwater against Lakeland.

He threw a 1-2-3 inning, striking out one.

Depending on how he feels on Saturday, he could be activated as soon as Sunday.

"We'll see what the reports are," said pitching coach Rich Dubee. "It's not out of the question."

Against Lakeland on Thursday night, Contreras gave up a run on three hits in one inning while striking out two, but Dubee feels he pitched better than his line indicated.

"There were a couple real weak hits," Dubee said. "He was throwing 91, 93. He was fine."

Added manager Charlie Manuel: "When we get Contreras back, if he's pitching like he can, that's going to make us that much better. Believe me, we can find room for all these guys, and it gives us more options if you want to match up. We need that kind of depth."