If the Phillies proved one thing with their World Series run last season, it was the value of an elite closer such as Brad Lidge. So the righthander's battle with soreness in his right knee, which he said dates back to the team's second series of the season, has caused some trepidation in the dugout and in the front office.
But Lidge, whose injury did not become public until manager Charlie Manuel used Ryan Madson in a save situation against the Nationals Monday night, said yesterday he is hopeful the health scare ultimately will prove to be just that - a scare.
"I'm obviously a little concerned right now," said Lidge, who had two surgeries on the same knee before the 2008 season, "because it is there, and it is in the area of those things, but based on the MRI and the tests, it is not a long-term problem. It is more of something that kind of needs to get out of there. We need to get the fluid and the swelling out of there."
A trip to the disabled list remains a possibility, though Lidge and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. both said it is not a serious thought at the moment.
Lidge had an MRI exam a week ago that revealed no tears in the meniscus, which came as a relief to a player who has a history of such problems. Once doctors determined the knee had no structural damage, they gave Lidge an anti-inflammatory injection in the hopes that it would relieve the pain. But during his last appearance Saturday, when he loaded the bases against the Marlins before rebounding to record the save in a 6-4 win, the soreness flared up.
That prompted the Phillies to shut down Lidge, hoping that rest, ice and an increase in anti-inflammatory medication would succeed where the single shot did not.
"It is a concern any time you have a guy who has to be down and has to miss time," Amaro said. "We'll try to navigate him through this thing. We'll see how he goes. He's day-to-day right now. We'll see how it goes over the next few days."
Recently, Lidge has worked to correct a minor mechanical flaw in his delivery that caused him to drop lower than usual on his drive (right) leg, particularly when pitching from the stretch. He isn't sure whether the mechanical flaw caused the inflammation, or vice versa. Lidge said the soreness first appeared during the Phillies' series at Colorado, when he pitched on April 11 and 12.
"I was a little nervous, because, in my career, for whatever reason, I've had [meniscus tears]," Lidge said, "and it felt a little similar in nature to that. So I definitely in my mind was thinking possibly here we go again. And fortunately the MRI didn't show that. That's why I feel a lot better about this."
Lidge said he could go on the DL if the injury does not heal within the next couple of days. The bullpen will be thin while he is unavailable to pitch. But with Lidge taking up a roster spot, the team is unable to add another arm.
"I definitely have thought about that aspect of it," Lidge said. "And we talked about that. But once we make our decision on what we are going to do, that's what I'm going with. I don't want to put any added pressure on these guys down there . . . If we get to the point where, in a couple more days, it's still bothering me, then that would be the best idea."
If the Phillies do decide to put Lidge on the disabled list, they could make the move retroactive to Saturday. That would make him eligible to return on May 12.
Catcher Carlos Ruiz (strained oblique) was originally scheduled to rejoin the Phillies today, but a minor setback before his third rehab start will push his return date back at least 2 more days. Ruiz felt his oblique tighten during batting practice at Triple A Lehigh Valley, where he was scheduled to serve as a designated hitter Monday. He returned to Philadelphia yesterday, where he played catch and took some swings in the batting cage before he was scheduled to be examined by the team doctor, Michael Ciccotti.
Ruiz, who was 1-for-6 in his first two games with Lehigh Valley, said he felt "a lot better" yesterday and was hopeful he would continue his rehab stint today in Reading.
"I'm glad he shut himself down," Amaro said. "I don't want him to be in a position to reinjure it fully. Then we are talking about another month or something like that. I don't want to put the player in that kind of position."
Raul Ibanez had his ninth multi-hit game of the season, tied for second among NL players . . . Shane Victorino has hit safely in nine straight games and is hitting .368 with 10 RBI during that stretch. *