IT'S NOT LIKE the Phillies have a lot of options.

Actually, right now, they have no other option.

Brad Lidge has struggled.

The closer who was perfect last season during the Phillies' run to the 2008 World Series championship already has blown four saves this season, including two over the weekend against the Yankees in New York.

The Phillies rallied to win in extra innings on Sunday, but Saturday's cough-up ended up costing the team an interleague sweep of the Yankees.

There is concern in Phillyville.

Some have suggested that Lidge be sat down for a while to clear his head.

Others have said that with reliever J.C. Romero due to return on June 3 after being suspended 50 games for testing positive for a banned substance, Lidge can be moved to a setup role and Ryan Madson shifted to closer.

Fortunately, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel doesn't have rabbit ears. He doesn't let outside talk influence his decisions concerning which Phillie is going to play when or where.

"Right now, I'm not even going to talk about that," Manuel said of the Lidge situation before last night's 5-3 loss to the Florida Marlins. "I want Lidge to feel we have all the confidence in the world in him, because we do.

"He's my guy. Of course, people are going to want to voice their opinion, say sit him down.

"What is sitting going to do for him? He's still got to simulate. He's got to pitch and get somebody out. I think what's going to right [Lidge] is to go out there and have a good inning. He does that a couple of games in a row, and you'll see a big difference. Once he gets command, he'll be off to the races."

The Phillies can't afford to think short-term concerning Lidge. They have to project to July, August and September, because if Lidge isn't Lidge then, this team is going to have little chance of repeating.

It is imperative that Lidge gets right, and the best way to do that is to send him back out to face the challenge, not have him shy away from it.

"That's how I'd look at it if I were a player," Manuel said. "If I went up to [Lidge] and said, 'You failed 2 days, so I'm going to sit you 3, 4, 5 days,' or 'slide you down to the sixth or seventh inning.' How would you feel? I'd say, 'Chuck don't like me too good.' "

Well, Chuck does like Lidge good.

When a guy goes 48-for-48 in the most high-pressure job in baseball the season before, he's going to get a little leeway when he's struggling.

"To me, I think about treating Lidge right," Manuel said. "I think he deserves a chance to work things out."

Manuel said he doesn't feel that showing faith in Lidge is a risk to the Phillies because he is confident that Lidge, who is 8-for-12 in save opportunities this season, will regain the form that earned him the nickname, "Lights Out."

"I think his stuff is there and it's just a matter of him making more quality pitches and cutting down on walks and things," Manuel said. "If he were throwing 85, 86 [mph] and I didn't see a good slider, maybe we'd be talking different.

"His stuff is still there and it will play out over 162 games. That's what makes him a good closer. Will he blow a few games? Yeah. But his stuff will play out."

The options people think the Phillies have aren't anything more than quick fixes.

The only viable solution is for Lidge to figure out what is wrong and correct it, ASAP.

After Sunday's outing, Lidge said he was encouraged because even though he gave up two singles that tied the game, he felt he made good pitches.

"[New York] got two ground balls that weren't necessarily hit that well, and the stolen bases," Lidge said. "That's a recipe for a run."

Obviously, four blown saves before May is over isn't what you want from your closer, but I wonder if Lidge is a victim of his success last season.

Perfection is an unrealistic expectation from a closer, but Lidge did it. And now it comes as a shock to see him fail, even though we know it is an occupational hazard.

"[Lidge] was perfect last season," Manuel said. "How's he going to top that? He had to have some letdowns this season. That's baseball.

"I think sitting him would just kind of prolong things. If you sit him, then the next time you send him to the mound, he might be thinking about it even more.

"I think getting him back out there and letting him pitch is what you do. Take the ball, throw it, and see what happens again." *

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