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Valverde declares himself healthy, ready

Valverde says he's ready to return

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HOUSTON -- Astros closer Jose Valverde, on the disabled list since April 27 with a strained right calf, said following a workout prior to Wednesday's game at Minute Maid Park that he was ready to return to action. But Houston has a little more cautious timetable.

"I'm ready right now," Valverde said. "My arm and leg and everything is good. I feel great and am excited for everybody."

Valverde fielded balls off the mound and covered first base before throwing 30 pitches in the bullpen and said he was fine physically. Manager Cecil Cooper and pitching coach Dewey Robinson kept a close watch on Valverde and were encouraged with what they saw.

"He had a real good session and fared well on the [pitchers' fielding practice] we just had," Cooper said. "He's going to do a simulated [game] on Friday, and after that we'll make an evaluation."

Cooper said Valverde will throw 20 to 25 pitches Friday to hitters and could be sent out on a Minor League rehab assignment shortly afterward. Valverde threw all of his pitches in the bullpen, including his fastball, split-fingered fastball and sinker.

Valverde (0-1, 5.63 ERA) injured himself fielding a ground ball on April 21 and appeared in two games after that before the pain and swelling became too much. He had a slow rehabilitation and sought a second opinion from Dr. John Uribe in Miami.

He rejoined the team last week in Pittsburgh, marking the first time he had been with his teammates while they were away since going on the DL. LaTroy Hawkins has handled the closing duties in Valverde's absence, converting seven saves.

Brian McTaggart 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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