Should You Worry About Brad Lidge?

lidge 0210 2010.jpgIf the Phillies are concerned about Brad Lidge they aren’t saying it.

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.

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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.

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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.

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The Zo Zone is on Facebook and Twitter. His Phillies book “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” is available online, and at Delaware Valley bookstores!

7 Comments

I’m not going to worry about Brad Lidge because I am not expecting anything from him anyway. Why waste the energy. I’m more concerned that JC Romero gets back in action soon.

Amaro and Dubee sound like the guys on the bridge of the Titanic…just a little ice ahead, don’t worry.

Agree with BOTH phan52 and Jimmymack. And frankly, I’ve got MORE confidence in David Herndon getting a guy out in a late inning situation than I do in Lidge based on Brad’s recent injury history and his ’09 performance. I’ll take ability and performance over past experience almost everytime.

Maybe I’m not worried about Lidge, but I’m also not confident in Madson either. Sadly, in today’s game, you need a closer. Guys like Halladay are at best a one in five shot.
We can check Wagner’s spring numbers, but he was also probably healthy at the time, which makes the comparisons irrelevant. Re-arrange the deck chairs, Rich.

If only two scoreless innings against the Threshers meant anything to me.

I hope they have a quicker hook with Lidge this year. Last year was excruciating. He seems like a great guy and I will always be grateful for ’08, but he was just awful last year. I don’t know if it’s injuries or if it’s mental (probably both), but I hope that they have a plan B this year. If we get to the All-Star break and Lidge is struggling and no one else stakes a claim to the closer role, then I hope they go after someone like Heath Bell.

I also pray that if it’s not working, the hook is quick. You can’t just stick with him forever because he used to be a good closer like they seemed to have last year. If Lidge had been halfway average, the Phils would have won 100 games last year and may, may have won the WS as well (I saw game 4 in person and it was awful).

There is no doubt in my mind that the Phillies would be much better off without Brad Lidge. Even the year (2008) he was very lucky to come away with many of the saves. To be realistic, he just doesn’t have it.

With regard to Cole Hamels, he is NOT a quality pitcher. He’s a thrower who doesn’t have the control needed to be a premier pitcher.

It’s a wonder that the 47 year old wonder is still a Phillie. He’s no better than a batting practice pitcher. You’ll see that I’m right when he faces some of the better hitting teams.

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