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03/17/10 1:58 PM ET

Heads-up Romero making progress

Lefty's elbow, reflexes solid while facing hitters for first time

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- J.C. Romero might not be ready to pitch by Opening Day, but he learned Wednesday he still has his reflexes.

Romero, who is recovering from offseason surgery on his left elbow, threw to hitters for the first time this spring on Wednesday morning at the Carpenter Complex. Francisco Diaz, a Minor League catcher from Venezuela, smacked Romero's second pitch up the middle.

Romero got his glove up in time to catch it.

"Welcome back!" Phillies advisor Pat Gillick joked from behind the batting cage as Romero stumbled off the mound.

After Romero recovered, he kiddingly asked Diaz if he spoke Spanish. When Diaz nodded yes, Romero told him in Spanish to try pulling the ball. Twenty-three pitches later, Romero walked off the mound in good spirits.

"No setbacks," Romero said. "That's for sure."

He is scheduled to throw more batting practice Friday or Saturday. Opening Day on April 5 remains a long shot, but Romero said he would not rule out the possibility. Romero has said in the past that he hopes to be ready for the team's April 12-15 series against the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park.

"I won't rush to get into games," he said. "I will pitch in a game when my body tells me that I'm ready to go. Ninety-five percent won't cut it. I've got to be 100 percent.

"Right now, I'm good. I'm going through everything I need to do with no pain. I'm happy with everything that's going on right now."

Utley still out: Second baseman Chase Utley has not played since Monday because of an upper respiratory infection, but he took batting practice and fielded ground balls Wednesday. The Phillies are off Thursday, so he will not play until Friday at the earliest.

Polanco feels better: Third baseman Placido Polanco, who sprained his right knee Monday, said he continues to feel better. He said he could play as early as Friday.

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