HOUSTON -- Brandon Backe threw a 40-pitch all-fastball bullpen session on Wednesday as planned, and although he's still a long way from returning to the mound in a real game, the right-hander was relieved to be doing something besides riding a stationary bike and throwing on flat ground.
"I was excited today," he said. "Not that I'm not excited to come to the ballpark all the time, but there was a little extra excitement because it was my time to throw off the mound again. Being a month away from the mound starts to get a little irritating. Days drag on. Something different today, it was fun."
Reporting "no tweaks, no pulls and no strains," Backe confirmed he'll throw another side session on Friday, when the team is in St. Louis. He'll likely increase his pitch count to 50, and the intensity level will probably be a little higher as well.
"I didn't try to do too much on it today," he said. "I just wanted to reintroduce myself to the rubber and get the feel of throwing off the mound again. It wasn't anything like a real test run or anything, it was basically just throwing off the mound, toward the direction of the catcher.
"I let a couple go, just to test it out, to see how far I could go. For the most part, I was throwing only 70 percent. So far, it's been good."
Backe's last spring outing was exactly a month ago, when his start in Bradenton, Fla., against the Pirates ended abruptly when the pitcher strained a muscle on his left side. He was placed on the disabled list a couple of weeks later.
How or when he fits into the rotation when he's healthy remains to be seen, but it's no secret that Backe won't be ready to make a comeback anytime soon.
"If it was up to him, he'd probably want to pitch next week, Friday, whatever," manager Cecil Cooper said. "We have to slow him down. We have to make sure he is ready to go when we do send him out to pitch. It's going to be a while yet."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.