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Notes: Lidge one step closer to return

Notes: Lidge one step closer to return

HOUSTON -- Brad Lidge threw a 50-pitch bullpen session prior to Saturday's game without any setbacks, and if all goes well, he could be ready to return to the team by the middle of next week.

Lidge, who was eligible to come off the disabled list on Saturday, estimated he threw at about 90-95 percent intensity and did not feel any lingering discomfort from the strained oblique muscle that has sidelined him for two weeks.

"You've got to wait until [Sunday] to wake up and make sure nothing cramps up overnight, but I'm really happy about the way today happened," Lidge said.

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The closer will throw a quick simulated inning to hitters on Monday, and if he passes that test, he could be ready to pitch in a live game by Wednesday.

Lidge is hoping to avoid having to go on a Minor League rehab assignment, but he'll let his superiors make that call.

"If they want to treat it more gradual, whatever," he said. "I just want to be ready as fast as I can."

Less padding: For much of his career, Craig Biggio was as well-known for the arm pad he wore on his left arm as he was for hitting doubles down the left-field line.

But lately, Biggio has been playing without the protective padding, mainly because "it's been getting in my way."

"It doesn't feel right with my swing," he said. "Every now and then I'll wear it, but in the last month, I've taken it off."

Biggio was back in the lineup on Saturday, but he won't start Sunday's finale with the Rockies. Astros manager Phil Garner plans to keep Biggio on the same schedule he's utilized much of the season -- play three or four days in a row, take day games off -- but Garner expects to meet with Biggio after the All-Star break to discuss the second baseman's schedule for the second half.

Garner hasn't specified, but it's likely Biggio's playing time will decrease.

All-Star talk: The majority of the players who comprise the All-Star rosters are decided by the players and coaching staffs, who cast their All-Star ballots last weekend.

Garner said he voted for Rockies outfielder Matt Holliday and Reds superstar Ken Griffey Jr., but he left Giants outfielder Barry Bonds off his ballot.

"The question is, are you voting based on stature or a guy who's having the best year?" Garner said. "I always vote for guys who have had the best first half of the season. And sometimes, it's not your perennial All-Star."

Carlos Lee is the Astros' leading candidate to receive the All-Star nod, and chances are, he'll be the team's only All-Star. But Garner also acknowledged that Hunter Pence has merited consideration, even though he wasn't called up until the third week of the season.

"You might give Pence some consideration," Garner said. "He missed 26 days or something, but he's certainly played like an All-Star since then."

Coming up: The Astros and Rockies will wrap up their extended four-game set Sunday afternoon, beginning at 1:05 p.m. CT. Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (4-7, 4.57 ERA) will face right-hander Rodrigo Lopez (4-1, 4.09 ERA).

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

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