Friday, April 4, 2008

Lidge Set to Return Saturday

Brad Lidge faced six batters on Thursday for Single-A Clearwater in his final rehab outing. He didn't fare particularly well, giving up two hits, one of which was a home run, in the first inning, but he also struck out two batters.

According to the Phillies website, Lidge will likely be activated in time for Saturday's game against the Cincinnati Reds. The Phillies will be happy to have him back (well, all but Tim Lahey who is the most likely roster casualty) as temporary closer Tom Gordon is sporting a 33.75 ERA. Granted he's only appeared in two games, but Phillies fans want nothing to do with him in a save situation. Despite Lidge's somewhat troubled past, he will be a welcome addition.

One has to wonder what will happen to the structure of the bullpen when Lidge assumes the closer role. Last year, when Brett Myers was the closer, J.C. Romero took the 7th inning and Gordon took the 8th, but will Charlie Manuel continue to give Gordon the 8th inning? Considering his age (40) and his early season struggles, it would seem more logical to use Romero in the 8th inning and turn to either Gordon, Chad Durbin, Ryan Madson, or maybe even Rudy Seanez in the 7th. Of course logic has never held Manuel back before, so it wouldn't be a total shock to see Gordon trot out of the bullpen in the 8th inning on Saturday.

The best option would probably be to use Romero as the primary set-up man in the 8th, and perhaps use Gordon there every so often (so Romero's arm doesn't fall off), while switching between Gordon, Durbin, and Madson in the 7th, based on match-ups and who is well-rested.

The real story, however, will be how Lidge reacts to the Philadelphia crowd. He comes in with high expectations and suspect confidence. He won't have the chance to close out a game in Philadelphia until Friday April 11th, at the soonest, as the Phillies hit the road for a four game series in Cincinnati and then a three game set against the Mets, before returning home to face the Cubs. Hopefully Lidge can notch a few saves before then and get his confidence up in that time.

Lidge is the biggest X-Factor to the Phillies' season, so all eyes will be on him when he makes his 2008 debut. Will he be the next Billy Wagner, or another Jose Mesa?

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