Pitching trio's session goes smoothly

Phils pitching trio's session goes smoothly

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- One by one, the Phillies' trio of recovering pitchers began or continued on the road back.

With grass still wet from the early morning dew on Monday, Kris Benson threw first, followed by Brad Lidge and Adam Eaton side-by-side in throwing sessions attended by many members of the organization: general manager Pat Gillick, assistant GMs Mike Arbuckle and Ruben Amaro Jr., special assistant Charley Kerfeld, head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan and senior adviser Dallas Green.

No one grabbed his right shoulder, right knee or lower back, respectively and wincing was at least not evident. All three exited with equal levels of encouragement.

"I don't feel it at all," said Lidge, who threw from a mound for the first time since having arthroscopic knee surgery two weeks ago. "Not that I'm trying to feel it, but I didn't have to think about it when I was throwing. That's very encouraging. I'm happy with the results."

Lidge remains optimistic about being ready for March 31, when the Phillies open the season against the Nationals. He'll throw another bullpen session on Wednesday, then graduate to live batting practice or a simulated game by Friday.

"He was very impressive," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "Watching him throw as naturally as he did, makes us feel great."

While Lidge called Opening Day a "realistic goal," Dubee said Lidge would be "in the neighborhood" if March 31 wasn't an option.

Eaton said his back felt fine after his 41-pitch outing. He'll pitch again on Wednesday, then work in a game Saturday.

"I was able to get extension down and away," Eaton said. "The [slight disk herniation] is going to be there, but I was able to get loose and stay loose."

Eaton will maintain his conditioning by running in the pool, as opposed to traditional running, to help alleviate the stress on the lower back. He felt confident in being able to resume the competition for the fifth starter's job, which he was believed to be leading.

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But Benson may have a say in that. The righty continued his recovery from right rotator cuff surgery with a strong bullpen follow-up to his March 8 appearance in a Minor League game. His next appearance will be Thursday, also in a Minor League game.

"He threw very well," Dubee said. "Coming off his first game competition, I thought his arm looked great. He had command of all his stuff. It was a very good workout for Kris. He's pretty much where we thought and hoped he would be. The arm strength continues to build. Things are coming together for him."

Benson can opt out of his contract by March 25 if he's not added to the 40-man roster. Based on his progress and conversations with team executives, he doesn't feel it will reach that point.

"I don't think I'm going to have to exercise the out clause," Benson said. "Personally, I think the team is satisfied with what they see. It would be smart for them to go lock it up and forget about it instead of dragging it out until the deadline. If they like what they see I don't think things are going to change. Of course, they might want to wait and see if something goes wrong. The way that I feel I don't think anything will go wrong."

So far, so good on all three fronts.

Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.