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05/13/09 8:25 PM ET

Long road back for Valverde, Brocail

Astros relievers throw Wednesday as part of slow rehab

DENVER -- The process of rehabbing from an injury is often slow and tedious, and judging by what Jose Valverde and Doug Brocail have been doing lately, it's clear both have a long road ahead of them before they can think about pitching in a real game.

The two pitchers are working to keep their arms in shape without full use of their legs. In fact, they've been doing most of their throwing from their knees. Only recently have they been cleared to actually play catch while standing up.

"Valverde stood up and threw," manager Cecil Cooper said Wednesday. "Brocail can't stride, but he can stand still and throw. [The athletic trainers] told me earlier today when I got here that they were throwing today and they felt fine."

Valverde, who has been on the disabled list since April 27 with a strained right calf that eventually needed to be drained of fluid, isn't expected back for at least three weeks. That return date may be a little liberal, however.

Asked during the last homestand when he thought he might return, Brocail candidly said sometime around the All-Star break would be a realistic target.

So for now, it's all about keeping the arm as close to game-ready as possible.

"If they can stand up, then you don't have to worry about them having to build back up," Cooper said. "There's a lot of stuff that has to go into that. That's what we're hoping."

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