HOUSTON -

Jose Valverde

is a lucky soul.

Valverde absorbed a line drive off his face Friday in the Astros' 4-3 victory over the Phillies at Minute Maid Park. Remarkably, he continued to pitch to earn his 15th save for Houston. But perhaps just as remarkable, he showed up before last night's game without a headache, bruise or bump from the ball that

Pedro Feliz

crushed off him.

That's probably because Valverde put up his glove at the last second to help absorb the blow.

Feliz and Valverde talked behind the batting cage before last night's game.

Feliz appeared relieved. Probably not as much as Valverde, who said he felt OK to pitch.

But there is no question that the split-second moment before a batted ball hits a pitcher is a pitcher's worst nightmare.

"I don't even want to talk about it," the Phillies'

Clay Condrey

said.

A ball rocketed back at Condrey on May 23 of last year against the Florida Marlins at Dolphin Stadium. Condrey entered the game in the ninth inning after

Brett Myers

strained his right shoulder.

Todd Linden

ripped the ball back at Condrey's head, but the pitcher threw up his glove and caught it. If he hadn't, Condrey would have been in big trouble.

"When those highlights are on ESPN, I turn it off," Condrey said. "It's too close for comfort."

Lidge knows

Phillies closer

Brad Lidge

had a worse experience than Condrey in the Florida State League in 2000. A ball hurtled toward him, and he threw up his right arm at the last second to protect his face.

The ball split his right ulna in half.

"If I didn't put up my arm, what would have happened to my face would have been ugly," said Lidge, who still has a plate in his arm.

It's surprising more pitchers aren't hit with line drives like the ones that struck Valverde and San Diego Padres righthander

Chris Young

last week.

"I think it would happen more if we didn't do a lot of PFPs [pitcher's fielding practices] and have quick reactions out there," Lidge said. "I think a lot of times you'll see guys get out of the way and make a great catch. That's because we do it every single day so our reactions are better. We have to have reactions like that or we'd take a lot more balls off our bodies and faces. There's people that go down in every level, but that's part of it."

What the . . .?

Charlie Manuel

remembers a time in Japan when he hit a line drive off a pitcher's shoulder and broke his collarbone. He said the pitcher returned a year or two later and immediately drilled Manuel.

Manuel became so upset that he chased the pitcher. The pitcher ran - straight into Manuel's team's dugout and hid behind Manuel's manager.

The manager told the interpreter to tell Manuel that the pitcher was scared.

"I told him if you don't get the hell out of the way, I'm going to knock you down, too," Manuel said.

Werth is optimistic

Jayson Werth

is optimistic that he will need only 15 days to recover from the strained right abdominal muscle that put him on the disabled list Friday.

T.J. Bohn

has taken Werth's place on the roster.

Werth is eligible to be activated June 7 in Atlanta.

"It hurts us, definitely on lefties because he hits them well," Manuel said.

Liking Madson's stuff

Ryan Madson

entered last night 1-0 with a 4.38 ERA, four holds, a save, and a blown save. He also had allowed four of five inherited runners to score.

Madson also has a 2.89 ERA in his last eight appearances.

"To me, he's throwing the ball good," Manuel said. "That means a whole lot."

Half of Madson's 22 appearances have come with the game tied or the Phillies leading or trailing by no more than two runs.

"I'll put him in tough situations," Manuel said. "It depends where we need him. I have no problem with that."

- Todd Zolecki