Cliff Lee has never had an arm injury in nearly three decades of playing baseball, so he said he honestly doesn't know what to expect in the next month. As he laced up his cleats for a round of pitchers' fielding practice on Wednesday afternoon, Lee said he was sure of one thing.

"I'm tired of rehabbing," he said.

But Lee's lengthy stay away from the mound took an important step on Tuesday: he picked up a baseball and played catch for the first time in 22 days.

"I felt fine," Lee said.

Lee will throw again on Thursday. Manager Ryne Sandberg said the plan will be for Lee to throw every other day initially, and then progress to throwing on back-to-back days, with a day of rest in between.

Lee will go from playing catch to throwing long toss to taking the mound in side bullpen sessions. Eventually Lee will get on a mound in a rehab game.

But it's a process that will likely take him into July.

"I really don't to be honest with you," Lee said on whether he had a time frame in mind. "If I had something similar to it before, I might know. But it's new to me."

But Lee has taken the first baby step toward a return, three weeks and one day after being placed on the 15-day DL with a left elbow strain. Lee is nearly pain-free.

"Barely there," Lee said. "It's healing - it's almost healed. I just have to build back up the strength and get back out there."


In other Phillies rehab news, Cody Asche (hamstring) will likely begin an official rehab assignment at Low-A Lakewood on Friday.

Sandberg said Asche would need between 6-7 rehab games before being activated. Asche was placed on the DL on May 25, five days after Lee.