Brad Lidge(notes) is once again slouching from the shadows, threatening to blow saves for the Phillies. Lidge has told reporters that he hopes to return from the DL in time for next week's series at Atlanta.
After receiving a cortisone shot in his surgically repaired right elbow on May 17, Lidge is apparently feeling much better. He threw a 25-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday, and another is scheduled for Thursday. If all goes well, Lidge may make an appearance at Single-A over the weekend — so far this year, he's actually pitched more innings for Clearwater (4.2) than for Philadelphia (3.1).
And after the short rehab stint, he'll presumably want his old job back.
But is there even a remote possibility that Lidge can pitch as brilliantly as interim closer Jose Contreras(notes) has to this point in the season? (OK, maybe there is, seeing as how no reasonable person thought Contreras himself could ever pitch this well). Jose has allowed just eight hits and one run over 14.1 innings, while striking out 20 batters and earning two saves. As we've mentioned before, the move to the 'pen has allowed Contreras to throw harder than ever. He's been ridiculously good. No one — except for a few thousand Lidge owners — wants to see him leave the ninth inning.
Manager Charlie Manuel said his decision-making in tight games will depend largely on how Lidge performs after he recovers. But he also has said repeatedly he thinks the 38-year-old Contreras, who entered the season as a full-time reliever for the first time in this, his eighth season, has the potential to be a successful closer.
"We're trying to build him up where he can go at least 3 or 4 days in a row," Manuel said. "That's a process, but stuff-wise, what he's done so far, he's been very good, and he's got the talent to pitch at the end of the game and to be a closer."
Now that Alfredo Simon(notes) is on the DL for Baltimore and Carlos Villanueva(notes) is losing his tenuous grip on the ninth in Milwaukee, Contreras is the last of the SP-eligible closers. Stay strong, Jose. Lidge has a mysterious hold over Manuel, though, so he can never be written off.
(And yes, we're paid a little extra to write about the Phillies' bullpen. That should be obvious by now).
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