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03/04/09 6:42 PM ET

Percival throws batting practice

Recovering hurler expects to see game action on March 12

PORT CHARLOTTE -- Troy Percival made another significant step Wednesday in his comeback from offseason back surgery when he pitched live batting practice.

Percival threw approximately 30 pitches during a 10-minute stint that saw him use all of his pitches.

"Actually I was a little surprised at how well he threw," Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey said. "Not super surprised, because you know how he is. For his first batting practice, he was more advanced really than he needs to be."

Percival is now scheduled to throw one more live batting practice and is tentatively penciled in to pitch in a game March 12.

"I'll be shocked if you don't see him on the 12th," Hickey said.

Percival, 39, who is signed to a $4 million contract with the Rays through the 2009 season, had surgery in December to try and eradicate the recurring back problem he suffered from the second half of the 2008 season. The surgery was performed in California by Dr. Robert Watkins and said to be successful.

Prior to last season's All-Star break, Percival went 1-0 with a 3.54 ERA and 19 saves in 29 games. After the break, the veteran closer went 1-1 with nine saves and a 6.11 ERA in 21 games.

Despite Percival's second-half swoon, he still overcame three stints on the disabled list to lead the Rays with 28 saves.

Hickey said the veteran right-hander looked physically better than he did during the second half.

"He looked today like he did prior to all the nagging injuries he had," Hickey said. "Biggest concern for me, and the trainers, is the surgery, or the procedure to fix the back, and how that affects the legs and all of that kind of stuff and he looked really good with all of that."

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