CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Another day, another step for Brad Lidge. Lidge's Thursday progress was a 19-pitch outing in a Minor League game. Working for Double-A Reading, he tossed the first inning against Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The right-hander fanned Brandon Watson, Mike Cervenak and Andy Tracy and got Gookie Dawkins to foul out in a four-out session. The one batter to reach base, Jayson Werth, walked, giving the outfielder bragging rights.
"He was trying to stay away from me," said Werth, who is 0-for-2 with two strikeouts when it counts against Lidge. "Obviously, I got in his head. I was joking with him that it must have been the career stats. But he looked good. The slider was tight." Lidge will repeat the process Sunday, also in a Minor League game, and could get in a Grapefruit League contest next week. "There's nothing better than facing hitters," said Lidge, who threw 12 of his 19 pitches for strikes. "That was a lot of fun. I was glad to get out there and feel good. I felt a lot better [command-wise], and I think that was because of having actual hitters and being able to lock in with an actual game surrounding." As he has during every step since having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Feb. 25, Lidge maintained that he'll be ready for Opening Day, and he received no reason to change his thinking Thursday. "I feel mentally like that's going to be the case," he said. "I don't want to jinx myself, but I'm really comfortable with where I'm at right now. I feel like I need a few more outings and I'll be ready."
Pitching coach Rich Dubee remained cautious on that point, saying, "Ask us the 30th."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.