SAN DIEGO (AP) -All-Star Chris Young was encouraged after throwing a bullpen session on Monday and the San Diego Padres, entering a crucial stretch against NL West rivals, are cautiously optimistic he can start Thursday or Friday.
The 6-foot-10 right-hander was forced to leave his start against the Mets on Tuesday night after five innings because of lower back pain. He returned to San Diego to have his back checked and missed his scheduled start Sunday at Philadelphia.
``It feels pretty good right now,'' Young said before the opener of a four-game series against the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Padres, trying to win their third straight division title, went into Monday night's game trailing the Diamondbacks by three games but leading the wild-card race by three games.
Young and manager Bud Black said the key will be how Young feels in the following days.
``Normally, once it cools off it gets considerably sorer,'' Young said. ``The fact that it feels pretty good right now is encouraging, but who knows how it's going to feel tomorrow or later tonight. But so far so good.''
Young is 9-4 with a 2.12 ERA in 23 starts, lowest in baseball. He is holding opponents to a .184 average, also lowest in the majors.
If he's good to go, Young will start either Thursday night against the Diamondbacks or Friday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Friday night's scheduled starter for the Dodgers is David Wells, who was released by the Padres earlier this month.
``They're both games we need to win, so I don't think it matters which day,'' said Young, who's been taking an anti-inflammatory.
Black said Young's bullpen session went well.
``Chris picked up the intensity in his throwing to test the back,'' Black said. ``We'll see how he is tomorrow. It was a lengthy side, as far as sides go.''
Young returned from a stint on the 15-day disabled list earlier this month. He was out because of a strained muscle in his left side.

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