By Evan Brunell
Brad Lidge has yet to pitch in 2011 thanks to a right shoulder sprain, but his return date is nearing.
ESPN's Buster Olney reports that Lidge believes he will return sometime in mid-June and has just begun a throwing program to strengthen his arm. Lidge will essentially have to repeat spring training all over again, replete with getting his arm in shape and pitching bullpen sessions and extended spring-training games. He'll also certainly need a few minor-league rehab assignments, but the light at the end of the tunnel is nearing.
Philadelphia has so far weathered Lidge's absence rather well as the club ranks 11th in the majors with a 2.99 bullpen ERA. That's also without a large chunk of work by Jose Contreras, who replaced Lidge in the ninth before coming down with his own injury. Ryan Madson has stepped in as closer capably so far, but that's exposed the underbelly of the 'pen as a result. They've gotten away with it so far, but one can't lose two of the team's three best relievers without eventually paying for it. If Philly's lucky, they won't pay for it until mid-June.