Two games in April and two in July, followed by time off for undisclosed personal issues, sent the seasons of Tim Worrell, Cory Lidle and the Phillies whirling.
The damage done by Tim Worrell, and the mysterious circumstances surrounding his personal life, represented perhaps the most destructive single factor in the Phillies season.
The Phillies had a chance to start 2005 with a series sweep for the first time since 1993, and would have done so had it not been for back-to-back blown saves by Worrell in games two and three of the season. Instead, the Phillies dropped two-of-three to the Nationals and stumbled out of Citizen’s Bank Park under a cloud of controversy and lingering negativity.
After a month of trying to work past his rocky start, Worrell and the Phillies shocked fans when the 38-year-old pitcher was granted a leave of absence to deal with personal issues.
Following a three-run drubbing at the hands of the Mets on May 5, the Phillies issued a press statement from Worrell, saying "I called Ed Wade last night to tell him that I am dealing with some personal psychological issues that I need to resolve. They are affecting my family life and my ability to do my job. I am going to deal with these issues and I hope to resolve them as quickly as possible. I appreciate the Phillies' understanding and their pledge of confidentially."
Worrell wouldn’t return to the Phillies until July 4, leaving the team a setup-man short and with the residue of an ERA approaching 10.00.
Sensing urgency in the bullpen, the Phillies traded second baseman Placido Polanco to Detroit for veteran setup man Ugueth Urbina. Soon after, only days after his return from the DL, Worrell was unloaded to Arizona for utility infielder Matt Kata.
The damage had been considerable. The bullpen was considered one of the team’s great strengths prior to the season, led by closer Billy Wagner, sophomore phenom Ryan Madson and Worrell, a prominent signing the season before. In 2004, he pitched a steady campaign as a compliment to Wagner, finishing with a 3.68 ERA, striking out 64 and holding hitters to a .254 BAA, and was expected to produce similar results.
But over the first two months, Worrell’s shaky stuff and unexpected self-removal meant more work and more uncertainty for the back end of the bullpen. It was especially taxing for Madson, who ran out of gas by September. It also meant that Polanco – one of the better second baseman in baseball – may have been rushed out the door for Urbina, who would become a free agent after the season and had no future with Detroit, or with the Phillies for that matter.
Meanwhile in Arizona, the time away from Philadelphia paid off as Worrell finished red-hot, including a 1.13 ERA in September and a string of seven shutout appearances to end the season. Despite a bad start and missing a month of action, he would finish with a respectable 4.07 ERA. He signed back with the Giants this winter.
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To a lesser extent, Cory Lidle’s own personal issues resulted in a good season knocked down to a mediocre one.
On July 21, in the thick of the race for the NL East title, The Daily News reported that Lidle left the team for personal reasons following back-to-back outings when he allowed seven-earned runs.
It was reported that Lidle appeared visibly upset after the team's game that day and did not speak with the media. Though he didn’t miss his next start, it would take the right-hander three games to get back on track, allowing five runs in each of his next two outings.
Before the setback, Lidle had been the unsung hero of the starting rotation. Just before leaving, he pitched an eight-inning shutout against Washington before the all-star break, finishing the first half with an impressive 3.65 ERA.
After the break, manager Charlie Manuel reshuffled the rotation order, making Lidle his No. 2 pitcher. But upon returning from the break, Lidle was a mess, and wouldn’t regain his first-half form for the rest of the season. Lidle finished with a 4.53 ERA, leaving fans to forget numerous early-season highlights, including his shutout and career-high 11 strikeouts against the Brewers on May 11.
However, Lidle went on to lose that game in the eighth inning, drawing criticism that he was left in the game too long instead of pulled for a reliever.
The Phillies could have used a good setup man at that moment, but the best they had was at home, dealing with family issues.
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