Phillies closer Brad Lidge tested his wounded right knee in a 30-pitch bullpen workout yesterday and was encouraged by the results.
"It felt really good," said Lidge, who had not been on a mound since June 6. "The fact that I got to use my back leg and really push off like there was nothing to worry about was a good sign. I was really able to push off and let the ball go."
Lidge will throw in the bullpen again tomorrow, increasing his load to 45 or 50 pitches. That will give him a better read on whether he'll be able to come off the disabled list next week.
The righthander is eligible to return to the active roster Monday, which is an off day for the Phils. The team opens a three-game series at Tampa Bay the next day, and Lidge said his goal was to be ready to pitch in that series. It is likely that the team would ask Lidge to pitch an inning or two in the minors before he is activated. He could get that work in at the Phils' training facility in Clearwater, Fla., which is a short drive from Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field.
Lidge has been bothered by soreness and inflammation in his knee for much of the season. The soreness limited his ability to push off the rubber, and that took the bite out of his pitches. He had a 7.27 ERA and six blown saves in 28 games before going on the DL.
Doctors treated Lidge with a cortisone shot - he also had one in April - and that helped take away the soreness. Lidge said he threw pain-free yesterday.
"This shot helped a lot," he said. "The big thing was I had the shot and just rested the knee for five or six days. Last time, I didn't rest it, and I ended up aggravating it.
Lidge has had two surgeries on his right knee during his career. He has had two MRI exams this season, and the team said neither revealed any structural damage. Lidge said that it was unlikely he would need off-season surgery and that rest would cure the problem. He hopes this trip to the DL will provide him with enough rest so he can pitch comfortably, while pushing off his back leg, for the remainder of the season.
The back leg is an important source of power for a pitcher. Lidge said it's also important in keeping him aligned toward the plate, and that helps hide the ball from the hitter.
With Lidge out, the Phillies have used Ryan Madson as closer. Madson is now 2 for 3 in save chances since Lidge went on the disabled list.
"I'm very eager to get back," Lidge said. "It's very hard to sit in the dugout and watch when you're not contributing. Thank God our bullpen has been doing such a good job and we have depth out there. It lets me know I don't have to rush back."
There are scouts from other teams at Citizens Bank Park for every game, but last night there was a larger group than usual.
The turnout might simply have been a coincidence or it could have had something to do with it being Italian night in the press dining room.
Most likely, the surge of scouts had everything to do with teams gathering intelligence as the July 31 trade deadline approaches. The Phillies will be buyers, and they're looking for pitching. The visiting Toronto Blue Jays entered last night five games back in the rugged American League East. They could be either buyers or sellers.
There has been some speculation that the Jays could deal ace righthander Roy Halladay for the right price. Halladay leads the American League in wins (10) and innings (103) and ranks fifth in ERA (2.53). He had been scheduled to pitch tonight, but a sore groin will force him to miss his turn.
"That really makes me mad," deadpanned Phils manager Charlie Manuel. "I was really looking forward to seeing him pitch."
Righthander Scott Richmond will pitch for the Jays tonight against Jamie Moyer.
After getting his first day off of the season on Sunday, leftfielder Raul Ibanez was back in the Phils' lineup last night. He missed Sunday's game with soreness in his left Achilles. Ibanez said he was feeling fine before the game.