PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies reliever J.C. Romero can already see the metaphorical metal bars swinging wide open.
"I just take it as they let me out of jail, that's all," he said.
Romero, set to return on Wednesday from a 50-game suspension for violating baseball's policy against performance-enhancing substances, was happy to be back with his teammates as they embark on a 10-game trip to San Diego, Los Angeles and New York.
The 32-year-old left-hander has been working in the Minor Leagues to get innings under his belt, throwing 7 2/3 frames for Class A Lakewood, Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He allowed two earned runs (2.35 ERA) on five hits, struck out seven and walked two.
"I'm where I need to be right now," Romero said. "I feel good. [Saturday and Sunday were] the first back-to-back games that I had, and it came out pretty good. My arm responded pretty well."
The Phillies scooped up Romero in June 2007 after the Red Sox designated him for assignment, and he became a key late-inning arm out of their bullpen. In 132 games with Philadelphia, Romero is 5-6 with 46 holds and a 2.17 ERA. He prevented 62 of 84 (73.8 percent) inherited runners from scoring.
While the Minors are a far cry from the World Series, when he last pitched in the big leagues, the 10-year veteran used the two months in baseball purgatory to reflect and to teach, in addition to working off a mound.
"My time in the Minor Leagues was something like a humbling experience," Romero said. "It helped me go back to basics as far as what it takes to be back in the big leagues. And really, at the same time, I felt that I helped a lot of the young guys that I came across, giving them a little advice and letting them understand ... [that] you got to protect your career.
"I'm just hoping that wherever I plant my seed, it grows into something positive."
With that seed widely spread, he is itching to return -- "I'd say it's past due, you know?" -- but then again, that may be his nature.
Or as he said, laughing: "I was born ready."
David Gurian-Peck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.