He remains the defining image of a championship, yet is beyond forgotten in a season of success. But shortly after 3 p.m., Brad Lidge started agility drills in right field at Citizens Bank Park and then walked to the bullpen where he threw in front of Rich Dubee.

"Honestly," Lidge said, "my shoulder right now feels like nothing ever happened."

Lidge radiates optimism and the partially torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, complicated by further elbow issues, has tested his faith. But the erstwhile closer could actually be nearing a major step: Sometime next week, he could begin an official rehab assignment with either double-A Reading or triple-A Lehigh Valley.

"I'm hoping," Lidge said. "If they let me… I feel good enough to do it."

Dubee said it is a possibility.

"We'll judge that when we have to judge that," the pitching coach said. "He threw well."

Lidge said he plans to play catch Thursday, then throw another bullpen session at one of the minor-league affiliates. Once he begins his official rehab assignment, he can spend a maximum of 30 days pitching in the minors.

His hope is to return before the end of July.

"If there are no setbacks," Lidge said, "I would think so."

That, of course, is not a given. Lidge was pitching in extended spring training games a few weeks ago when soreness in his elbow developed. That paused his recovery.

Read more in Thursday's Inquirer.

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