Charlie Manuel said before the Phils' 8-7 loss to the Nationals that to get Lidge right, he planned to pitch him in low-stress situations -- when the Phillies are leading or trailing by more than a few runs -- with the possibility of him closing on occasion. But Manuel had wondered how often those situations would present themselves, as only four of the Phillies' past 25 games had been decided by five runs or more.
Manuel did not have to wait long. A few hours later, Lidge pitched the eighth inning with the Phillies trailing by six runs. He allowed a one-out triple to Willie Harris but struck out Pete Orr and Ryan Zimmerman to get out of the inning.
"I don't see us using him in the seventh or eighth inning," Manuel said. "I look at him as a closer. That's kind of where he fits. I see him pitching once he needs work. If we're behind in the game or we're ahead or something by a good margin, we'll get him [in] to make sure he pitches live in the game. He needs to get work where he can command his pitches and he feels good about himself. I agree that he needs work like that. That's kind of what he wants. I don't know how much work like that from here to the end of the season we can get him."
Could he still close this season?
"He could," Manuel said. "He hasn't lost [anything]. I'm telling you right now, he definitely can still close. I see where he could be our everyday closer again. Yeah, of course."
Manuel and pitching coach Rich Dubee met with Lidge after Wednesday's 6-5 victory, in which Ryan Madson picked up his second save in as many nights. Manuel pulled Lidge from a save situation on Tuesday after he loaded the bases with one out, allowing a single, walking a batter, hitting a batter and throwing a wild pitch.
It sounds as though Madson and possibly Brett Myers will be pitching in most save situations until the Phillies deem Lidge fit to return - Myers was warming up in the ninth when the Phillies had a chance to take the lead -- but Manuel is not going to name anyone the team's closer for the foreseeable future, perhaps because he wants to make it clear to Lidge that he can get back his job.
Lidge is OK with Manuel's plans.
"It's real simple," Lidge said. "Just get me work to get me where I need to be. That's about it. I told him, 'Listen, whatever you need to do, I'll be ready to take the ball at any time.' I told him it doesn't need to be a save situation. Obviously, I'm ready to throw in those. But if we're up by six runs, down by six runs, I feel like I'm very close to where I need to be, but it wouldn't hurt to get a couple more outings. We're on the same page with everything, and we had a good talk."
The Astros removed Lidge from the closer's role when he struggled in 2006. In fact, the Astros shuffled him in and out of the role a few times before they traded him to the Phillies in November 2007.
But Lidge believes this situation is different.
"In Houston, you did have the job or you didn't have the job," Lidge said. "Here, it is, 'Listen, you're still going to be our guy, but we've got to make sure that we get your work in also.' That being said, I imagine if I would throw a couple nights in a row in a non-save situation and one comes up ... then we've got a couple great options at the end of the game, and we're fortunate to have that.
"I feel like I'm very close. I had an outing I wasn't happy with in Houston [on Saturday], and [I was] a little bit off the other night, but I've felt great. I think this will be a good time to get everything exactly where we want it. I felt like I was just about there. I took a step back, but compared to how I felt earlier this year, I know I'm a lot ahead. Not just stuff-wise. Slider control, stuff like that. I think it's smart."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less