Phils remain confident in Madson as closer

Phils remain confident in Madson as closer

ATLANTA -- Phillies reliever Ryan Madson spent much of his Wednesday afternoon in front of a laptop inside the visitors' clubhouse at Turner Field.

Madson studied video from Tuesday's struggles in a 4-3 loss in 10 innings to the Braves, when he blew a 3-0 lead in the ninth inning. He also said he looked at past pitching performances to see if he could find a solution to his problems.

"I know what I'm doing wrong," Madson said confidently. "I just don't want to say."

Madson is 1-1 with a 9.82 ERA in his past 10 regular-season appearances against the Braves, who also scored seven runs against him in three innings in three Grapefruit League appearances this March.

"Pitch selection," Madson said.

Like maybe the Braves have caught on to something?

"Yeah, exactly," Madson said.

Madson blew his first save in four opportunities Tuesday night. The blown save might not be so scrutinized, except Brad Lidge and Madson blew a combined 17 saves last season.

Madson is 29-21 with a 3.27 ERA in 363 relief appearances, but is 4-7 with a 9.54 ERA in 38 save opportunities in his career. Of course, those numbers are misleading because 16 of those appearances came earlier in non-closing situations -- meaning he earned a blown save pitching anywhere from the sixth to eighth innings. In 22 save opportunities when Madson pitched as the closer, he has a 4.30 ERA and 17 saves.

That still is more than an earned run higher per game than Madson's career ERA as a reliever. It also is a 77.3 save completion percentage.

To put that save percentage into perspective, the top five career leaders in saves (Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, Lee Smith, John Franco and Dennis Eckersley) converted at least 80.8 percent of their saves. Rivera leads the pack with an 89.5 percentage.

"I think the ninth inning is a different beast," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "He's under control some games, and he's not in control some games. It's a different beast. That's why the guys who can do it on a regular basis, year in and year out, are special. Those are special guys. It takes some guys longer to get over that hump. Some never get over the hump. Some are more comfortable in the seventh and eighth for whatever reason."

What kind of guy is Madson?

"I think he has plenty of stuff to do it," Dubee said. "Absolutely. Can he do it on a regular basis? I'm not sure yet, because he hasn't gotten it on a regular basis. I think the ability is there. Absolutely."

"Ryan Madson, he's our closer," manager Charlie Manuel said. "If we get in a save situation tonight, more than likely, he's going to be there. He's my guy. Just because they hit you one night, it doesn't mean they'll hit you two nights."