(Patrick McDermott/GETTY IMAGES)

Lidge returned to Washington from extended spring training in Viera, Fla., this afternoon. (“I’m really happy,” Lidge said. “I feel like I can’t complain, because [Drew] Storen is banished for longer.”) Lidge will pitch Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the minors, and if all goes well he could be available in Toronto.

“I’m ready,” Lidge said. “I just need a few more games to get everything locked in.”

Lidge, who has 225 career saves, will be a candidate to close games along with Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett until Storen returns. In April, Lidge allowed four earned runs in seven innings and blew two saves in four chances, when he had trouble locating his slider. Lidge actually feels better about his stuff now.

“I was actually surprised,” Lidge said. “I didn’t know if I would need a few outings. The first one went well, location and stuff-wise. [Rehab coach Mark] Grater down there, he was saying, no offense, but he felt I looked better than when I was pitching. That’s probably a good thing. That was encouraging.”

The Nationals bullpen could receive reinforcement from Ryan Mattheus, who has been on the disabled list since May 22 with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Mattheus is eligible to come off the disabled list Tuesday. “I’m going to push them as hard as I can to get off the mound,” Mattheus said. “Hopefully I’ll be out there sooner than later.”

While Mattheus hopes to return Tuesday, the Nationals will use caution. Mattheus could still tear the sheath in his foot while making a quick reaction coming off the mound to field a bunt.

“We’re going to probably be cautious with him,” Manager Davey Johnson said.

Mattheus said he did not think he needed a rehab assignment, but Manager Davey Johnson said the Nationals will use caution and likely make Mattheus pitch in the minors before re-joining their bullpen.

“When we feel he won’t be damaging his foot further, he’ll probably have to go pitch somewhere to prove it to us,” Johnson said.