It is beginning to look like Brad Lidge may not be ready to be on the big league Phillies' opening day roster. Lidge is not expected to see his first Grapefruit League game action until this coming Monday, March 15th. Obviously, that places him behind the pace of the rest of the team. There's no certainty in Lidge's status at all, but all that does is stir speculation. The main concern of phans and media alike would be- if Lidge isn't ready to start the season, who will close games? The most like candidate is Danys Baez.
Baez has closed in the past and has 114 career saves in the Major Leagues. His save conversion rate is 76%. By comparison, Lidge's conversion rate in save situations is 83.7%. For those who feel Ryan Madson should be the first option to fill in for Lidge, consider that Madson has more career blown saves than he does actual saves. Granted, Madson's blown saves have mostly come in innings earlier than the 9th, but facts are facts. In 2009, Madson saved 10 games in 16 chances. That's a 62.5% conversion rate.
Lidge took his first big strides toward getting in game shape and proving he's healthy, on Wednesday, when he threw to live batters, two Phillies minor leaguers, Ozzie Chavez & Chris Duffy.
The Phillies are slated to compete in two games on Monday against the Pirates. The regularly scheduled game in Bradenton and a "B" game in the morning. There is no official word on which game Lidge will pitch in.
With the Phillies expecting JC Romero to not be ready for opening day, the team's relief corp might be a thinner, downgraded version of what the team is paying for, with the likes of Dave Herndon, Scott Mathieson, Mike Zagurski, Sergio Escalona and Antonio Bastardo striving to be on the bubble to earn a roster spot, should one become available.
A healthy Lidge should be leaps and bounds better than he was in 2009, when his mechanics were altered by multiple ailments. So phans, if Brad the closer isn't ready to go, on opening day, just remember that Lidge was also not on the opening day roster in 2008, when he was perfect in save opportunities and the Phillies won the World Series. If Lidge needs an extra week to get his velocity where he, and the team, want it to be, it won't be the end of the world...it could be the best thing possible.
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Lidge picture- Getty Images