LOS ANGELES - Many athletes will tell you that the mental strain inflicted by an injury presents a challenge similar to the physical toll. Closer Brad Lidge, who has struggled with inflammation in his right knee since the early part of the season, thinks he is over that hurdle.
After Lidge recorded a save in four straight games from May 29 to June 1, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel stayed away from using the righthander against the Padres Tuesday and Wednesday night. While Lidge could have pitched Wednesday, Manuel was determined not to use him Tuesday to protect the knee.
Lidge, who pitched on 4 straight days one other time, from May 14-17, said both the knee and his arm feel fine.
"It's stronger now, I think," said Lidge, who has worn special inserts in his shoes to fix a slight bend in his right leg that might have contributed to his frequent knee issues. "It feels like I don't really have to worry about it as much anymore. I don't have to worry if it's going to respond. It's stronger, and I am confident that it will [respond]."
Whether the confidence has contributed to Lidge's recent resurgence is unclear. But the righthander entered last night riding a stretch of five straight saves, during which he has allowed only one hit and one walk while striking out five.
"[The inflammation is] still there, and it might be for a while, but I'm not thinking about it when I'm pitching," Lidge said.
One day after soreness in his left hip caused him to remove himself from the Phillies' 5-1 win over the Padres in the sixth inning, Shane Victorino was out of the starting lineup for the first game of a four-game series against the Dodgers. But the centerfielder downplayed any concern about the injury, which he said occurred while rounding first base on a double in the first inning.
"That's why I did what I did," said Victorino, who entered last night hitting .300 with 38 runs, 27 RBI and nine stolen bases. "I don't want it to be a long-term thing."
Victorino ran sprints and performed some agility tests, but said there were still "certain movements" that bothered the injury. He took batting practice and was hoping to be available to pinch-hit.
"It feels a lot better today," Victorino said.
Normal rightfielder Jayson Werth, who contributed an RBI single in relief of Victorino Wednesday, started in center last night. Eric Bruntlett, the team's righthanded-hitting utilityman, started in right.
Manuel noted that the situation would have been a nice spot to use outfielder John Mayberry Jr., who was sent back to Triple A Lehigh Valley on Monday after a little more than a week with the team. Manuel said the minor leagues are the proper place for Mayberry to play at this stage in his development, although he said the three lefthanders the Dodgers will throw at the Phillies in the series likely would have given the 25-year-old prospect more of an opportunity to see action.
"John has to play," Manuel said. "For him just to sit here and not play - he needs to be out playing . . . but if we ran into a stretch where a team had three lefties and stuff, he probably would have gotten to play. But at the same time, he definitely needs to be out playing."
Righthander Brett Myers, who underwent hip surgery yesterday in New York City, is scheduled to begin a long toss program in approximately 3 months, the Phillies said yesterday.
That means Myers, whose arthroscopic bony spur and labral debridement was performed by Dr. Bryan Kelly, likely will not throw until at least early-September.
Although neither the team nor Myers has ruled out a late September or October return, such a situation is viewed as an extreme longshot.
Lefthander Antonio Bastardo, who won his major league debut Tuesday night against the Padres, was named the Phillies' minor league Pitcher of the Month for May. Outfielder Michael Taylor, who hit .330 with six home runs in 27 games for Double A Reading, was the organization's Player of the Month . . . Baseball's draft begins Tuesday. Thanks to the offseason signing of Raul Ibanez, which caused the Phillies to forfeit their first-round pick, their first selection comes at No. 75 overall. *