CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The question as to whether Brad Lidge would be ready for the season was answered Monday, when the Phillies placed their closer on the 15-day disabled list. The transaction is retroactive to March 21, meaning Lidge is eligible to come off the DL on April 5. Even if he makes that date, he'll miss the first five games of the regular season. Lidge met with team officials on Monday morning, and the decision was made based on the righty's progress. While he hopes to be ready after an abbreviated Spring Training -- he had thrown two innings as of Monday, and had three more appearances scheduled this week -- reality prevailed.
"It's not what I wanted," Lidge said. "I was trying to get ready as fast as possible and unfortunately, in the end, my arm strength is behind. I was trying to cram four weeks of Spring Training into a little over a week." The extra week allows Lidge to add three or four appearances in Minor League games, bumping his innings total into double digits. His 16-pitch outing on Sunday went well, from how his right knee felt, but he expressed disappointment about his arm speed, which wasn't up to his standards. Lidge estimated that his fastball sat at about 91 or 92 miles per hour, or three or four miles slower than his preference at this point in camp. His devastating slider felt further off, he said. "It was the first time I felt like I hadn't made a big jump every time I'd come out; it was the first time I felt like I might need a little bit more than I thought," Lidge said. "Mentally, I was telling myself I was going to be ready no matter how the ball was coming out of my hand, but I need more than just four outings." Thus the decision to place him on the disabled list. The right-hander had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Feb. 25 and had been on schedule in his rehab. Opening Day was always an ambitious goal, at best. The team could've waited another outing or two to gauge his progress, but wanted Lidge to relax. "He's got to be ready," assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "We want him fully prepared, mentally and physically. In his mind, I'm sure he felt like he was going to be ready. He was probably geared up to be the closer Opening Day, but rather than putting him in a position to not be healthy, we want him to be ready when he comes back. He's a pretty important piece of our club. So he'll be our closer for 157 games, instead of 162." Added pitching coach Rich Dubee: "He was trying to accelerate, and that's the last thing we want him to do. We don't want him to think he has to go too fast, too soon. This guy is a big piece. So five days into the season, if that's all it takes, that's nothing. You hate to loose anybody for any time, but you have to be a little wise about things." The Phillies feel comfortable about placing Lidge on the disabled list because they have an experienced replacement in setup man Tom Gordon. Ryan Madson and J.C. Romero will move into the seventh- and eighth-inning roles. Though the final roster decisions haven't been made, this increases the likelihood of a 12-pitcher staff. Lidge hopes he won't be missed. "Obviously, I'm hoping we blow them out all [five] games," Lidge said, "and I don't have to worry about it. With our team, that's very possible."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.