Lee will pitch live BP for the Phils on Friday

Lee will pitch live BP for the Phils on Friday

PHILADELPHIA -- Cliff Lee is scheduled to pitch live batting practice before Friday's game against the Braves -- the next step for the Phillies' ace in his return from a strained left elbow.

Lee will face a number of teammates, including both right-handed and left-handed batters. It will be the first time Lee has faced hitters since he went on the 15-day disabled list on May 19. He has thrown three bullpen sessions and has not reported any setbacks.

Manager Ryne Sandberg indicated Lee could begin a Minor League rehab assignment next week.

"Possibly, if all goes well, that would be the next step," Sandberg said before Wednesday's game against the Marlins.

Lee has not ruled out returning before the All-Star break. If not, he's likely to be ready for the first series after the break on July 18-20 in Atlanta.

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jalaymance. Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.