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04/15/09 7:14 PM ET

Hoffman pain-free in bullpen session

Brewers closer could begin rehab assignment Tuesday

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman walked over to bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel for a high five, a very good sign that Hoffman's first bullpen session in more than a month went as well as it could have.

Hoffman threw 40 pitches during the session Wednesday afternoon at Miller Park and used his full arsenal in his first mound work since a March 13 Spring Training game. Hoffman has been sidelined since then by a strained muscle along the right side of his rib cage.

"It's good to be back on the slope," Hoffman said. "I didn't throw as many strikes as I would have liked, but I think the key was to come out of it pain-free."

Hoffman will throw off a mound again Saturday in New York. The next step after that is to be determined, according to manager Ken Macha, but Hoffman indicated that he could join the Triple-A Nashville Sounds in Memphis as early as Tuesday to begin a Minor League rehabilitation assignment.

"Whenever they're in Memphis, I'll be there," Hoffman said.

Hoffman, 41, signed a one-year contract in January to replace Brewers closer Salomon Torres, who retired. Hoffman was placed on the 15-day disabled list before the Brewers broke camp and was eligible to return on April 11, though Hoffman and club officials knew from the start he would need more time.

"It's been a while," Hoffman said. "It's crazy how fast you eat into games when you're [injured] and you see them clip away. I'm pretty excited. They said the range was 7-30 days, and the fact that I'm throwing vigorously right at that 30-day limit is a credit to [Brewers head athletic trainer] Roger [Caplinger] and his diligence. I'm very pleased about where we're at."

Macha said there was a chance that instead of traveling to Memphis, Hoffman would remain with the Brewers to pitch a simulated game next week in Philadelphia.

"We haven't totally decided yet what to do, throw a simulated game or have him go pitch," Macha said. "He said to me that he hasn't done this very often, so he's actually looking for some guidance from us. We'll just see how he comes out of it on Saturday."

The Brewers would love to have Hoffman back. Pitching in a non-save situation Tuesday night, fill-in closer Carlos Villanueva, who is 1-for-2 in save chances, surrendered three runs on four hits against the Reds. In fairness, two of the hits took tough hops near third base, including one that jumped up and hit Bill Hall in the left collarbone.

Still, Villanueva allowed a 3-1 Reds lead to grow to 6-1, and Macha hedged just a bit when he was asked whether Villanueva's role was up in the air.

"We'll have to see how he's feeling [Wednesday]," Macha said. "Certainly, [Todd] Coffey and [Seth] McClung and [Mark] DiFelice have kind of pitched a little better than he has right now. We'll see how he's feeling."

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