PHILADELPHIA -- Brad Lidge began the 2008 season thinking he'd be a free agent at the end of the year. But he realized most free agents enter the market looking for a place where they can win a World Series. The Phillies' closer concluded, then, that he had no reason to hasten for the exits. "Where better than Philadelphia?" Lidge asked.
Lidge will have three more seasons to pursue that goal with the Phillies. The pitcher agreed to a three-year, $37.5 million contract extension that will run through the 2011 season, the team announced Sunday. The deal includes a 2012 club option, as well as performance incentives. "This was an easy decision," Lidge said. Working for $6.35 million in the final year of his current contract before looming free agency, Lidge has gotten off to the best start of his career, with a 0.77 ERA through his first 35 appearances. Coming into Sunday, he's one of two full-time closers in the Major Leagues, along with Mariano Rivera of the Yankees, to have not blown a save this season. Lidge has been the anchor in the Phillies' bullpen, which has a National League-best 2.74 ERA. His devastating slider/fastball combination has produced 47 strikeouts in 35 innings. Talk of a long-term agreement seemed to begin Nov. 7, 2007, the day Lidge was acquired by Philadelphia from Houston with Eric Bruntlett for Michael Bourn, Geoff Geary and Michael Costanzo. Talk continued through Spring Training and accelerated with each save Lidge recorded this season. Adding to his resolve, Lidge said, was his feeling comfortable and being welcomed by his teammates, coaches and front-office personnel. "I knew right away that this would be a good opportunity for me to play for a team that's competing every single year to go to the playoffs, to win a World Series," Lidge said. Francisco Cordero signed a four-year, $46 million deal with Cincinnati during the winter, a contract believed to have set the market rate for elite closers like Lidge and potential free agent Francisco Rodriguez of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Philadelphia got ahead of the curve by signing Lidge before he could test free agency. "There's a marketplace that's been put in place," assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "With the Cordero signing, and other signings that have been out there, they've helped build a framework for it." Lidge underwent surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee last October. He also had to have arthroscopic surgery Feb. 25 to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee suffered during Spring Training. Still, Lidge looks back at those hurdles as a blessing in disguise. "The path that got me here wasn't exactly perfectly straight," Lidge said. "There were some ups and downs along the way. But I think that experience is going to make me better, even from here on out."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. Kevin Horan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.