Last year Brad Lidge(notes) was untouchable, unbeatable and unbelievable. These days, he's just another struggling reliever in crisis, trying the patience of a city's fan base and a nation of rotisserie save-chasers.
The Lidge Implosion Tour continued this weekend in New York, as the Yankees threw a couple of ninth-inning rallies and blown saves at the struggling closer (the Phillies won Sunday's game anyway). To be fair, the series-ending collapse wasn't accompanied by any real fireworks - two singles and a stolen base tied the game and cost Cole Hamels(notes) a win – but when you're carrying the resume that Lidge is right now (9.15 ERA, 2.08 WHIP, .337 AVG), questions need to be asked.
Lidge's stuff hasn't completely left him, that we know – he's still striking out plenty of batters (21 Ks in 19.2 IP) and his slider is at the same speed it was last year. This doesn't look like an injury thing to me. He's lost a tick off his fastball, sure, but a heater in the 93 range, tied to a biting slider and good location, should be enough to get through one inning of work. And when those other things aren't in place, more velocity on your fastball isn't going to matter, anyway.
Is it just a matter of spotty command? Lidge generally walks more than the average closer, and it's up to 5.79 BB/9 this year. And when you're constantly working behind in the count, you're eventually going to get bitten now and then. Okay, hitters aren't biting Lidge, they're mangling him – he's already allowed 29 hits and six homers this season.
Do we dare pose the confidence question? Everyone remembers the extended funk Lidge fell into after his playoff problems in 2005 (and not just the Albert Pujols(notes) homer; don't forget the Scotty Podsednik blast as well). Pitching coach Rich Dubee admits he'd like to see his closer trust his stuff more. "It's being committed to what he's doing," Dubee said after Sunday's game. "He's caught up in, 'Throw a slider here or a fastball there?' Instead of just being committed, 'Hey, I'm going to throw this here and I'm going to throw it to a certain spot.'"
Eternal optimist Charlie Manuel backed up his closer Sunday and says he's not making a change – Manuel probably scheduled a round of golf as Noah's ark was loading – but fantasy owners need to be proactive and keep Ryan Madson(notes) stashed away whenever possible. Madson has been sharp as the eight-inning bridge to Lidge, and his profile (2.95 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 6 BB, 23 K, 0 HR) suggests he could easily handle the ninth if needed. Lidge's dynamic run through the 2008 season may have bought an extended leash, but we might not be far from the tipping point.
• Kevin Slowey(notes) gets compared to Brad Radke(notes) so often, you'd swear there was a congressional mandate, but Scott Baker's(notes) game is similar to the former Twin as well. Throw strikes, allow a homer now and then, don't walk anyone, strike out a few batters without being monstrous in that department. Baker hit all of those areas in Sunday's win over the Brewers (8.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR), and I still think there could be a buy-low window here, albeit I'm not thrilled to see his next start coming at Tampa Bay. Still, let's keep this guy on the radar, this is an undervalued stock with potential.
• The Red Sox piled up 12 runs and 16 hits in Sunday's bounce-back against the Mets, but David Ortiz(notes) wasn't involved in the fun (0-for-5, .195). Is it time for Ortiz to slide out of the No. 3 spot? "It's something we're going to discuss," hitting coach Dave Magadan conceded.
• Chris Iannetta(notes) strained his hamstring on the bases Saturday and went on the disabled list – see the bad things that happen to you when you hustle, kids? Yorvit Torrealba(notes) isn't a bad part-time rental while Iannetta rests up; the Rockies are home for six games (Dodgers, Padres) this week.
• Matt Lindstrom(notes) had a messy blown save in Saturday's game (four runs against one out), and he walked three of five men Sunday in a non-save situation. There's a fairly deep bullpen behind Lindstrom (there's something positive to be said about Leo Nunez(notes), Kiko Calero(notes), Renyel Pinto(notes) and even Dan Meyer(notes)), and I wouldn't be surprised if Fredi Gonzalez felt forced to make at least some temporary move fairly soon.
• Brandon Phillips(notes) wants to play through the hairline fracture in his left thumb, a heck of an idea if he were a hockey player, but I'm skeptical that he can get away with this on the diamond. The Reds haven't put Phillips on the DL yet, but I'd still bench him in any kind of a weekly-roster league, provided you have another regular option available to you.
Today, It Feels Like An Injury Blog: Carlos Beltran(notes) rested his sore knee all weekend, serving as the DH as the Mets played at Boston. It's not clear if he'll be healthy enough to play the outfield as the Mets swing back to NL play against the Nats Monday. … Jose Reyes (knee) won't play Monday but after that, he's still a guessing game. … Joey Votto(notes) homered twice Saturday but this ear infection is pesky; he was a late scratch from Sunday's lineup. He drew a walk as a pinch-hitter in the ninth. … The ridiculous Jason Bartlett(notes) collected his seventh homer and 14th steal at Florida Sunday, but he also suffered a very minor ankle tweak near the end of the game and will probably rest Monday. … Akinori Iwamura(notes) was carted off the field Sunday after suffering a knee injury and a DL trip looks imminent. This could lead to more playing time for Ben Zobrist(notes), though Willy Aybar(notes) and Reid Brignac(notes) will also be considered, and Joe Maddon hasn't made a public declaration yet. … Chipper Jones(notes) (toe) still isn't starting, though he took one at-bat Sunday. … Joba Chamberlain(notes) (knee) remains on track to make his next start Tuesday at Arlington. … Pablo Sandoval(notes) will get more tests on his sore elbow Monday. … Jhonny Peralta(notes) (wrist) didn't start the last two games, though he made a pinch-hitting appearance Sunday. … J.J. Hardy(notes) (back) might be available to
make outs play on Tuesday. … Denard Span(notes) is battling the flu, which means the recently-returned Delmon Young(notes) (0-for-4 Sunday) should get some PT. … There are 329 other guys in the majors who are currently hurt to varying degrees, but the kink in my neck is telling me to wrap this up and ship this out.
Speed Round: Brian McCann(notes) knocked a couple of homers Sunday and looks to be fine; he's hitting .396 since he came off the disabled list, and .417 since he switched to new specs. … This time it was merely a good Cliff Lee(notes) start, not a great one: 6 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 4 K. His ERA crept up to 3.04 and of course it wasn't good enough for a win, the Indians don't believe in scoring a lot of runs for Lee this year. The Reds ultimately took the battle of Ohio in extra innings. … Dontrelle Willis(notes) worked into the seventh inning and had another passable line (6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 4 K), though he threw just 61 of 105 pitches for strikes. His next turn comes at Baltimore, and while the Orioles have an underrated little offense (yes, Adam Jones(notes) in particular is ridiculous), the O's haven't done a lot against lefties this year. … Another easy save for Huston Street(notes), who hasn't allowed a run since April 24. … Joel Hanrahan(notes) struck out two of three Orioles and earned his second save in four days. Kris Medlen(notes) will stay in the Braves rotation for at least one more turn, drawing They Might Be Giants Tuesday. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Medlen has to show something in this turn if he wants to stay in the bigs.