TAMPA, Fla. -- While expressing disappointment over not being able to jog out to Drowning Pool's "Soldiers" on Opening Day, Phillies closer Brad Lidge echoed the team's sentiments on its bullpen depth. "We have the luxury of having Flash Gordon, so we'll be fine," Lidge said. So cue up Queen for the first five games of the season, when the theme to the 1981 film "Flash Gordon" will blare at Citizens Bank Park, if needed. Assuming Lidge returns when he's eligible on April 5, Tom Gordon provides manager Charlie Manuel with an established, reliable option in the meantime.
For the third straight year since signing as a free agent before the 2006 season, Gordon opens the year as the team's closer. The righty hasn't allowed a run in his previous four spring outings. Gordon, 40, credits an extensive strengthening program this offseason with helping him arrive in camp with no limitations. He was most encouraged by his ability to throw a football as part of his throwing program, something he hadn't done since 2005. "It's basically more long tossing," Gordon said. "You have to throw a football a lot more properly and make sure you get your arm up and get your release point in the same point all the time. The football is heavier and it takes more torque and tweak on your arm to throw a football, and you need more wrist action. I thought that would work well with my breaking pitches. "Once I got to that point and I felt more confident with what we were working on, I got to a point where I could do things that I hadn't done in three or four years." A dynamo in September, Gordon pitched in 18 games that month, including pitching eight times in nine days, and felt like a 25-year-old. He feels that way again and is ready to contribute. "I'm already ready, as long as I'm healthy," Gordon said. "Things have been going well for me this spring. I haven't had any setbacks, thank God. I think it worked out well enough to where the team needed me at any time or any position, I can get the job done and not worry about whether my shoulder or my elbow is going to nag me."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.