TORONTO - At first, Brad Lidge was not happy.
Blue Jays catcher Raul Chavez had just surprised the Phillies closer by bunting the first pitch of the ninth inning toward the left side of the infield, forcing Lidge and his uncertain right knee to scramble toward the ball and make an off-balance throw, which did not get to first base in time.
"I wasn't real happy about that," said Lidge, who was attempting to close out his first save opportunity since returning from the disabled list Thursday. "At first, it kind of [ticked] me off. I remember thinking that, but then, OK, [there's] a runner on first base, nobody out in a one-run game. You better get it done and be upset later.
"Honestly, it's fair. They want to get a baserunner. It's not like they did anything super cheap. I just didn't like it."
Lidge got it done after walking Marco Scutaro to put the winning run on first with no outs, then recording three straight outs, the most pivotal of which came when he stepped off the rubber and got pinch-runner John McDonald attempting to steal third.
Vernon Wells' two-out groundout to short capped off an eventful inning for Lidge, which resulted in his 14th save in 20 chances this season, and the first since June 1 at San Diego.
The closer, who broke a 16-game absence on Friday when he allowed two runs in one-third of an inning of a non-save situation, had gone on the DL due to inflammation in the same knee on which he had surgery before the 2008 season.
The Blue Jays gave him two chances to test it. The first came on Chavez' bunt, when he used the knee to pivot and push off on a throw to first. The second came on the McDonald out, when he stepped off the rubber and ran to meet the runner between second and third, then cut laterally several times before throwing to third baseman Pedro Feliz to start a rundown.
Lidge had said earlier that he was eager to test his knee in such situations, and yesterday he said he was happy with the way it responded. Even more, though, he was happy with his delivery.
Throughout the first 2 months of the season, the knee inflammation had hampered his ability to keep his body in a straight line while moving toward the plate. This affected both his velocity and his command, both of which were solid yesterday. His fastball hovered in the 94-95 mph range, while he threw six sliders, four of them for strikes.
"I definitely felt different when I threw it today,'' Lidge said. "And I threw some two-seam fastballs also. Yeah, [velocity] is important. But also, being able to drive off my leg, I knew that was going to give that an extra click or two, but mostly it helps me drive the ball to the location I need to get it to. If you are throwing 94 or 95 and it goes back over the middle of the plate, that really doesn't do a whole lot for you. Being able to drive it through the line, that helps you a lot. I did feel a little different today being able to push off like that. I haven't been able to do that for a while, so that was definitely nice."
No, Charlie Manuel says he never contemplated replacing Eric Bruntlett at shortstop with Jimmy Rollins for defensive purposes late in yesterday's game. Why? He said he wanted to make sure what has been described as a mini-mental vacation was an actual vacation. A Bruntlett error in the eighth inning squandered a potential inning-ending doubleplay and eventually put the go-ahead run on second, but Ryan Madson escaped the jam.
Manuel said Rollins would be back leading off the lineup tomorrow in Atlanta, ending his four-game absence.
The Phillies have yet to announce a starting pitcher for Thursday in Atlanta, when Antonio Bastardo will miss a start due to a left shoulder strain he suffered during a 10-4 loss to Tampa Bay last Thursday. Bastardo is scheduled to visit team doctor Michael Ciccotti today in Philadelphia. Joe Blanton will start tomorrow against the Braves, followed by Cole Hamels on Wednesday.
As for Thursday, the Phillies will opt for a player from their minor league system, likely either top prospect Carlos Carrasco or righthander Andrew Carpenter. Rodrigo Lopez, a 33-year-old righthander who won 29 games for the Orioles in 2005-06, has pitched well in his last three starts for Triple A Lehigh Valley, but threw more than 90 pitches last night and likely would not be ready to pitch by Thursday.
Carpenter and Carrasco have both pitched well lately for Lehigh Valley. Carpenter, who made a spot start and earned the win for the Phillies in a 7-5 win over the Nationals May 16, pitched eight scoreless innings against the Norfolk Tides Saturday night, allowing five hits, striking out seven and walking one. He has allowed three or fewer runs in each of his last eight starts and is 7-1 with a 2.75 ERA overall.
Carrasco, 22, has allowed two runs in 13 1/3 innings in his last two starts, striking out 12 and walking five.
Former Phillies assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle, now a special adviser with the Royals, was at Lehigh Valley Friday when a pair of top prospects - Carrasco and catcher Lou Marson - were in action. The Royals have a couple of pitchers, Gil Meche and Brian Bannister, and several hitters who could be available via trade . . . Lefthander Scott Eyre, who was eligible to return from the disabled list Saturday, is in Clearwater, Fla., rehabbing his strained calf. A team spokesman said a rehab assignment has yet to be scheduled. *