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04/11/09 6:54 PM ET

Hoffman getting closer to mound work

Bullpen sessions to be followed by rehab assignment

MILWAUKEE -- Trevor Hoffman played catch again on Saturday, and Brewers officials are hopeful that their rehabbing closer will be back on a pitcher's mound before the team's homestand concludes on Wednesday.

Hoffman, out since March 13 because of a strained muscle along his rib cage, threw from 120 feet with head athletic trainer Roger Caplinger prior to Game 2 of a Brewers-Cubs series at Miller Park and completed the exercise without incident, according to general manager Doug Melvin.

A number of steps remain before Hoffman can appear for the Brewers in a game, and he might not be back until the final week of April, even in the best-case scenario.

Assuming that he can return to a mound before Wednesday, he would have to throw at least two bullpen sessions followed by one or two days of live batting practice against Brewers hitters to test the strength of the strained muscle in his right side. Each of those "throw days" would probably be followed by at least one day off.

After that, Hoffman will be sent on a Minor League rehab assignment. The destination is to be determined.

"He's definitely going to pitch somewhere, there's no doubt about that," manager Ken Macha said. "There will be a rehab assignment, yeah."

Carlos Villanueva, who figured in both of the Brewers' first two wins -- he notched a save on Wednesday in San Francisco and picked up the win on Friday against the Cubs -- will continue to close while Hoffman is out.

The Brewers and Hoffman, 41, are continuing on what Macha called a "very, very careful" path.

"If I was to compare his and [starter Braden] Looper's rebound from the same problem, Looper was trying to be more aggressive about coming out and get it over with," Macha said. "Roger had to kind of curtail his eagerness a little bit. ... It's [Looper's] exuberance versus [Hoffman] being a little more conservative."

But the Brewers remain encouraged by Hoffman's progress.

"Everything seems to be moving forward," Melvin said.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.