Phillies closer Lidge undergoing more knee surgery
The good news is, the Phillies' best-laid plans are still very much alive. The bad news? They might have to wait a little longer to implement them.
CLEARWATER, Fla. - The good news is, the Phillies' best-laid plans are still very much alive.
The bad news?
They might have to wait a little longer to implement them.
Closer Brad Lidge, expected to team with Tom Gordon to form a potent 1-2 punch at the back end of the bullpen, will miss 3 to 6 weeks after surgery today to remove a portion of the meniscus in his right, push-off, knee.
If all goes well, Lidge, 31, could be ready to pitch by Opening Day. But with a home date against the Nationals on March 31, there is a chance the Phillies could open the season with Gordon as the closer and Ryan Madson or J.C. Romero setting him up.
"Ideally, if everything went right, I wouldn't miss any of the season, because that would be 4 1/2 weeks," Lidge said, "but that will be based on how it feels, obviously."
While his teammates prepared to hit the links for the Phillies' annual golf tournament, Lidge was making plans to fly to Philadelphia. Team physician Dr. Michael Ciccotti will operate on him.
With team athletic trainer Scott Sheridan at his side, Lidge said an MRI yesterday revealed no major tears in the knee, which he injured on his first pitch of practice Saturday.
Lidge had surgery to repair cartilage in the same knee in October, but the righthander and the trainer both said today's procedure is not nearly so major.
"The biggest thing is the outside of the knee, which is where I had my major surgery, that's been coming along really well," Lidge said. "That was the important part, and that was feeling really good."
The problem lies in the medial, or inner, part of the knee. The MRI revealed some small tears. To fix them, Ciccotti will remove the affected portion of the meniscus in a procedure known as a partial medial menisectomy.
Dr. Arthur Bartolozzi, a former team physician for the Eagles, Flyers and Phantoms, said the meniscus Lidge injured was likely weaker due to the first injury.
"When you operate on them the first time, you don't remove all the meniscus," Bartolozzi said. "You try to leave as much normal-appearing meniscus as you can. But the stuff that is left is not as tough and durable as normal meniscus because it's already been injured."
Dr. Easwaran Bala, a physician with Temple University Orthopedics, called it a "pretty common procedure. It's not like an ACL or a shoulder for a pitcher."
Nationals catcher Paul Lo Duca had the same type of surgery on his left knee Jan. 28. Last Wednesday, he told reporters he expects to play Opening Day.
Lidge, however, also has to worry about getting his arm in shape for the season, a process that will be hampered by the surgery. He will be completely sidelined for a week, then he can begin throwing long-toss.
"I actually felt like I was a little ahead of where I would normally be in spring training at this same time before this happened, so I can kind of fall back on that," Lidge said. "But I'll certainly need a few times throwing to guys, which I'm sure I'll probably get in at the end of spring training."
When the Phillies traded for Lidge this offseason, they anticipated Gordon and him closing out the eighth and ninth innings.
Although he struggled at times the past couple of seasons in Houston, Lidge finished 2007 strong, converting 19 of 24 save opportunities after spending a month on the DL from mid-June to mid-July.
He had surgery in early October to repair torn cartilage in the knee, which had hampered him for much of the second half of last season, but said he doesn't think he pushed himself too hard to recover.
"I don't think I rushed myself at all," Lidge said.
"Based on the surgeries I had before, it was more of a freak thing."
Surgery wasn't the only option. Lidge said he could have rested the knee for 2 to 3 weeks in hopes it would heal on its own. But he and the Phillies decided not to take that chance.
"The thing is, if I rest it for 2 to 3 weeks, there is no guarantee that when I come back it won't still be there, and then I'll have to get the scope at that point," Lidge said. "I think given all the options, this definitely made the most sense. I think we were saying with this type of surgery, when you get that type of surgery, it's gone, it doesn't bother you anymore."
Even if Lidge's recovery does lapse into the season, the Phillies should have enough arms in the bullpen to survive. Gordon saved 34 games for the team in 2006 and entered the season last year in the closer's role. Meanwhile, Madson appears to have recovered from the right shoulder strain that sidelined him for the last 2 months of last season.
Gordon declined to discuss the prospect of becoming the closer, saying he didn't feel it was appropriate with Lidge's uncertain status.
"Gordon would definitely be our No. 2 option," manager Charlie Manuel said.
"Gordon's done that. As a matter of fact, Gordon will get to close games this year, especially if Lidge has pitched 2 or 3 or 4 days in a row. More than likely, he won't pitch 4 days because we have Gordon." *
Daily News sports writer Paul Vigna contributed to this report.
For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at go.philly.com/highcheese