You can believe what the Phillies say all you want - that they're sticking by struggling closer Brad Lidge - but it's awfully difficult to think that he will be the man they hand the ball to in the ninth inning in October if he keeps being as unreliable as Wayne Gomes
First, a piece of full disclosure: I like Brad Lidge a lot, both as a person and as a closer. I may sound completely off the wall for saying this, but I honestly think he can right himself in the next three weeks and kill this issue.
I know that sounds strange, but being around Lidge as much as I am, I believe it.
OK, I got that out of the way and feel better. Now back to the current reality of the situation.
Lidge blew his major league-leading ninth save Tuesday night. One-third of his saves have come within the last two weeks, which leads you to believe he's getting worse, not better.
Maybe another DL stint (his right knee has been an issue this season and in the past) makes it easy to replace him without demoting him.
On that note, the Phils have to be examining their other options privately if not publicly. Which made the events of Wednesday night pretty interesting.
In Pittsburgh, Ryan Madson
- the primary setup man and Lidge's understudy - failed in his audition as closer (he pitched because Lidge was unavailable to work five straight days). Like Lidge, Madson gave up a crushing, ninth-inning home run.
He stayed in the game an inning later and collected a win - and appeared to pitch well despite the home run - but the fact at the end of the night was that he added another blown save to the Phils growing total (it's 18, if you're counting at home).
Personally, I think Madson has the stuff to close. But since he's never had the role in a long-term situation, and since he thrives in the eighth, I don't think I'd give him the ball in the ninth for the next two months. Leave him be.
At about the same time Madson was taking the mound at PNC, his good buddy Brett Myers
was also pitching in relief... at First Energy Field in Double-A Reading. The minor-league rehab appearance was the fourth for Myers.
My guess is he'll make at least one more (and probably two, to test how he handles pitching in back-to-back games for the first time) this weekend. I think if all goes well, he'll be activated next week.
But let's get back to his performance on Wednesday. Myers worked two innings, he allowed one base runner (on a walk). He struck out five of the seven batters
I realize he was facing Double-A hitters, but a performance like that has to boost his confidence.
Myers has also handled the closer's role. He took over the job early in '07 and fared quite well, including nailing down the save in the playoff clincher on the last day of the season.
I remember talking to Myers the winter after that performance, and how he said that's where he wanted to be: pitching in the ninth inning, with a chance to finish off a team and lead his team to an important win.
Would there be a better story that seeing Myers come back, take over the closer's role, and have a Brad Lidge-like moment
at the end of the World Series?
Is there a better option for the Phillies than to hand over the closer's role to Myers?