When J.C. Romero initially returned from elbow surgery and the disabled list, the Phillies were mum on a possible role for the lefthander. There was a reason: Romero, 33, had pitched just 162/3 innings in 2009 because of a 50-game suspension for using a banned substance, a stint on the disabled list in July, and then season-ending surgery in October.

At first, Charlie Manuel said Romero was someone who could get lefties out. But Romero maintained he could do more than pitch to one batter each time out.

Last week, Romero recorded two saves. That represents a third of his career total and a career high for a season.

And he's facing both lefties and righties.

"I feel comfortable with both of them, actually," Romero said. "I get ahead in the count against righties as well as I do against lefties. So it's a matter of me finding a pitch I can put [righthanders] away with, like I do with lefties."

It's a small sample size, but in 2010, Romero has fared well against both. Lefties are hitting .200 (3 for 15) and righties are hitting .182 (2 for 11) against Romero. He has allowed one extra-base hit, a home run in his first outing of the season.

Pitching coach Rich Dubee said Romero's stuff is finally coming around now that he is finished with an arduous rehabilitation and has seen major-league hitters for a month. The bite on his fastball, which has mostly hovered from 89 to 91 m.p.h., is there, Dubee said.

"He's starting to get into a nice comfort zone for himself," Dubee said. "He's doing fine. He's getting in shape."

In 2008, Romero and Brad Lidge formed a formidable back of the bullpen as the Phillies went on to win the World Series. Romero was sharp against lefties, who hit just .102 (10 for 98) against him. But righties batted .282 with 11 extra-base hits.

For his career, lefties are batting more than 50 points lower than righties against Romero.

As Romero has shown the propensity to get both righties and lefties out this season - in key situations, too - Manuel has eased the restrictions.

Friday against Boston, Romero entered in the ninth with one out and runners on first and second in a four-run game. He got lefty J.D. Drew to ground out. He hit righty Adrian Beltre with a pitch on a 2-2 count. And he got lefty David Ortiz to fly out deep to center to end the game.

"My goal is to get three outs - doesn't matter whether it's a lefty, righty, whoever it is," Romero said. "That's why sometimes you see me get very upset when I get righties at 1-2, in a count I should put them away and they get a bloop here and there. I don't like that, because I know there's going to be a point in time that I have to face righties when the game is on the line."

More of those chances could be coming. Romero said he no longer worries about his elbow with the exception of when he warms up. He paces himself more than he used to. But when he's on the mound, he said, there are no concerns.

"I'm past that," Romero said. "I'm getting stronger every time. The key for me is trying not to overthrow. Whatever I've got that particular day is what I've got."

Schneider activated. As expected, backup catcher Brian Schneider (strained left Achilles tendon) was activated from the 15-day disabled list Monday and will join the Phillies on their trip to New York to play the Mets beginning Tuesday.

To make room for Schneider, catcher Paul Hoover was designated for assignment. The Phillies' 40-man roster stands at 39 players.

Schneider, 33, played in three rehab games for triple-A Lehigh Valley over the weekend. He passed his final test Sunday, catching all nine innings. Before the injury, Schneider was hitting .167 (3 for 18) with no extra-base hits in seven games.

Hoover, 34, hit .278 (5 for 18), scored six runs and drove in two in six games.

If the Phillies choose to place Hoover (who was out of options) on waivers, which is expected, it's possible he may not make it through. The Washington Nationals placed catcher Ivan Rodriguez on the 15-day disabled list Monday and are in need of a backup catcher. Former Phillie Chris Coste is in triple A with Washington but recently had season-ending Tommy John surgery.

The Right Stuff

The original plan this season was for Phillies reliever

J.C. Romero to be the situational lefthander in the bullpen.

But he has regained his role as a full-inning setup man, mainly due to his effectiveness against righthanded hitters. Here are his splits against righties and lefties for average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.

Career         Batters   Avg.   On-base    Slugging

vs. LHB          1,650      .268    .378       .426

vs. RHB          976      .214    .310       .295

2010            Batters   Avg.   On-base    Slugging

vs. LHB          15         .200    .400       .182

vs. RHB          17         .182    .294       .400

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Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at 215-854-2928 or mgelb@phillynews.com.
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