Pitching through pain compounded matters for closer Brad Lidge in 2009. The Phillies need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Further details emerged yesterday on how Brad Lidge’s balky knee affected everything from the location of his fastball, to the reduced deception of a lower leg kick, to the speed of his delivery, and ultimately, the strength of his pitching elbow, which would eventually require offseason surgery.[Jim Salisbury offers a comprehensive take]. As the 33-year-old stopper addressed the media yesterday, the reasons behind one of worst single-season regressions in history couldn’t be clearer, yet it wasn’t long ago when his horrific season was shrouded in at least some degree of ambiguity. “He’s lost his mojo,” some speculated. Others assumed it was just another dip in his insufferably inconsistent career – which made him no different than many of his peers. In reading the various reports, some will be left wondering how his knee impacted his total inability to hold runners and the part where he completely melted once anyone reached base.
Consequently, only so much can be rationalized by the knee, but at the same time, it’s the one area the Phillies can control. The body needs time to heal and it hasn’t been long since Lidge went under the knife, which is why this passage from Salisbury’s piece is most encouraging news:
“Lidge quickly added that he will not rush back. If he and team officials believe he needs an extra handful of days before being activated, he will take that route. Lidge has a pretty good history taking that course. He had knee surgery early in spring training 2008, wasn’t activated until the sixth game of the season and went on to have a perfect season. ‘We’re going to be smart about it,’ Lidge said.”
"Being smart" means ignoring arbitrary goals like Opening Day or making X number of Grapefruit League starts. In essence, the Phillies had no closer last season and can go without one for a little while longer to ensure that he hits the ground running. The Phillies have gotten by with worse options than Ryan Madson and Danys Baez for short stretches (Antonio Alfonseca).
Taking plans B and C out for a spin may not be the worst thing in the world anyway.