Should You Worry About Brad Lidge?
Lidge made his first rehab appearance last night with Single-A Clearwater, and the results were not good. In just 2/3 inning he allowed three hits, four runs and one walk against Dunedin. It followed a March 30 cortisone injection into his right elbow, which followed roughly five Minor League Spring Training games in which he allowed at least a run in at least four appearances.
“His command isn’t there right now, but his arm speed is better, which has been the goal,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said following today’s 2-1 victory over Houston at Minute Maid Park. “He’s still got a ways to go. Health-wise he has absolutely no pain, so that’s good.”
Amaro said Lidge’s fastball hovered in the 89 to 91 mph range. He said Lidge would pitch again Monday in Clearwater.
But there are reasons why Lidge’s struggles are troubling to Phillies fans. He is recovering from November elbow surgery – he had his flexor pronator tendon and a loose body removed – and January knee surgery after he went 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA, 31 saves and a Major League-leading 11 blown saves last season. And he hasn’t performed any better this spring.
Rich Dubee, who watched film of Lidge’s appearance Saturday, understands those concerned, but said he is not worried.
“Very much so,” said Dubee, asked about his confidence that Lidge can return to prior form. “He’s in Spring Training mode. Check Brad Lidge’s Spring Training numbers. Check Billy Wagner‘s Spring Training numbers. Generally, closers in Spring Training aren’t very good. Part of it is that adrenaline rush.”
Lidge had a 4.00 ERA in nine Spring Training appearances last year. He did not appear in any Grapefruit League games in 2008, when he recovered from knee surgery. He had a 12.38 ERA in eight games with Houston in 2007 and a 7.11 ERA in six games in 2006. Lidge fared well in 2004 and 2005. He had a 1.80 ERA in 10 games in 2004 and a 1.64 ERA in 10 games in 2005.
Wagner had a 5.40 ERA in nine Spring Training appearances with the Phillies in 2004 and a 6.75 ERA in 11 appearances in 2005.
“To see him have better arm speed and more velocity is a great step in the right direction,” Dubee said of Lidge.
The Phillies signed Lidge to a three-year, $37.5 million contract extension in 2008. That is just one reason they hope he rebounds in 2010. They also need depth in the bullpen. Ryan Madson currently is closing with Danys Baez looking like the setup man.
The Phillies said last month that Lidge’s cortisone injection should not be alarming because he had the elbow surgery on the inner half of the elbow. They said they gave him the shot on the outer half.
Phillies physician Michael Ciccotti said the inflammation on the outer half of the elbow was unrelated to the surgery. He also said no MRI was required and Lidge had no structural damage.
“I think you guys are making a little bit too much of the cortisone shot, I guess,” Amaro said last month. “It’s more just to get him over the hump. He didn’t have a sharp pain. It’s not related to his surgery.”
Eventually, however, the Phillies need to start seeing results.
J.C. Romero, who also had offseason elbow surgery, has fared much better in Clearwater. He has thrown two scoreless innings in two rehab appearances for the Threshers. He is scheduled to throw again Tuesday. … Joe Blanton, who is on the disabled list with a strained left oblique, continues to throw and run. He said he has made gradual improvement every day. He said he does not know when he could begin throwing off a mound. The Phillies originally estimated Blanton would need three to six weeks to rejoin the Phillies. The three-week mark would be April 22.
I will be signing copies of my Phillies book “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Borders on S. Broad Street in Center City. I hope you can stop by.