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03/09/09 7:59 PM ET

Backe has no timetable for return

Astros righty slated to miss next start after straining side Sunday

VIERA, Fla. -- Brandon Backe has no timeline planned as he works his way back to the mound from a strained left intercostal muscle, but reading between the lines, it appears the right-hander could be sidelined for a while.

He'll miss at least one start, but probably more. Bullpen sessions are on hold for the time being, as well. Other than receiving treatment, riding a stationary bike and keeping his arm strong with band-pulling exercises, Backe is effectively shut down until further notice.

After leaving his start in Bradenton, Fla., after two innings Sunday, Backe doesn't appear to have improved overnight.

"Last night was pretty rough, getting in bed and rolling around, but I slept pretty good, better than I thought I would," Backe said. "Getting up this morning, it's still pretty sore and real sensitive to the touch. I just started process of treating it and we'll see how it goes."

For now, he'll continue his conditioning routine during his time off, sans the pitching activities.

"I'll simulate some kind of throwing with my arm," Backe said. "Whatever I do now, as far as pulling on a band or riding the bike, is only going to help me come back throwing two or three innings and not having to have to go to bullpens and whatever. The more I can do now, the less I'll have to do later to get back to where I left off."

Backe has made three appearances this spring. He threw two shutout frames in his first outing on Feb. 26 against the Braves and followed that with a two-inning performance against the Rays in which he allowed four runs on three hits. He likely would have pitched three innings in Bradenton on Sunday, but the injury cut that short.

Backe is hoping he won't be sidelined for long, but he has no way of knowing how quickly he'll heal. Being patient is a tall order for the right-hander, considering he's competing for a spot in the rotation and doesn't want to risk being passed over by one of the other hopefuls in camp.

Having not received a ringing endorsement from the Astros' front office this year, Backe is that much more frustrated to not be able to fight for his job.

"The doubt's there, because there's no communication as to where I actually stand, other than I'm fighting for a job," Backe said. "Putting myself in their shoes, looking at it from the outside in, it only opens up doors for others who are competing against me. As much as I want them to do well, I want to be out there and do well with them."

Updates: Injured lefty Wandy Rodriguez, who also has been sidelined with a strained left side, will throw simulated innings on Tuesday and if that goes well, he could appear in a game this weekend.

"I feel no pain right now," Rodriguez said. "No soreness, nothing."

Chris Sampson threw 30 pitches off the mound Monday and he'll do the same Wednesday. Barring a setback, Sampson will likely be cleared to throw an inning on Saturday.

Reggie Abercrombie is quickly healing from his fractured toe and may be back quicker than originally thought. He took batting practice on Monday and was slated to test the toe with several running drills.

"I'll hit today, run straight, and tomorrow, I'm going to zig-zag," Abercrombie said. "I feel good standing up, but running might be a different thing."

The outfielder has hopes he'll play as early as Wednesday, but manager Cecil Cooper said Saturday or Sunday is a more reasonable target.

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