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Contreras appears ready

Only in the minor leagues would a Tuesday doubleheader begin at 10:35 a.m., but that's what is happening up in Hog Country today. Jose Contreras was scheduled to make his final rehab appearance for triple-A Lehigh Valley on Monday night, but the game was rained out.

So he started Game 1 of this morning-day doubleheader, and was very sharp. The Morning Call's Jeff Schuler reports Contreras threw 14 of his 20 pitches for strikes in two innings and allowed only two singles -- one of which was erased by a double-play ball.

The Phillies will likely activate Contreras from the 15-day disabled list before Wednesday's game. The guess here is righthander David Herndon goes back to Allentown.

Contreras has not pitched since April 21 with elbow soreness. In his first eight outings as Phillies closer, he did not allow a run.

Of course, Contreras will not be closing when he returns. That job is Ryan Madson's now. But having Contreras in the fold all of a sudden makes the back of the Phillies' bullpen look quite deep. In addition to Contreras and Madson, there's the young duo of Mike Stutes, Antonio Bastardo.

Those four pitchers have combined to allow five earned runs in 51 innings this season -- an 0.89 ERA. Is that sustainable? No, but there are four electric arms reserved for the later innings. That means Charlie Manuel will not be regularly forced to use J.C. Romero, Danys Baez and Kyle Kendrick in tight situations.

And in the end, the Contreras injury may not be the worst thing in the world. It taught Manuel and Rich Dubee that the Cuban's 39-year-old right arm is not elastic. It allowed Stutes the chance to crack the majors and prove his value. And it also let Madson show he can more than handle the ninth inning.

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