Brad Lidge: Return near All-Star break

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies closer Brad Lidge doesn't expect to pitch again until sometime before the All-Star break as he continues his recovery from a shoulder injury.

Some initial reports said that Lidge might miss three to six weeks with a right posterior rotator cuff strain. But that figure includes only the amount of time that Lidge must refrain from throwing.

While Lidge says his recovery remains on schedule, he expects to need an additional three to six weeks to get ready to pitch once he receives clearance to throw.

"We feel confident I'll be back before the All-Star break, but exactly when, we don't know," Lidge said before the Phillies' game against the New York Mets. "Nothing has changed.

"So far it's going the right way. I still have some pain there, but definitely less than a week ago. It pretty much comes down to when they give me the clearance to start throwing."

While Lidge has yet to pick up a baseball, he's doing a variety of shoulder exercises to strengthen his arm. He said in a "best case" scenario, he could return by the end of May. But a late June return appears to be a more realistic estimate.

Lidge, 34, has recorded 99 saves in three seasons with Philadelphia, and 222 saves in nine years with the Astros and Phillies.

In Lidge's absence, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has been using Jose Contreras as closer, with Ryan Madson as the team's principal setup man.

The Phillies, playing without Lidge and injured second baseman Chase Utley, won four of their first five games entering a Thursday matinee against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. The Philadelphia bullpen went 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA in those five games.

Jerry Crasnick is a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com.