CLEARWATER, Fla. - As he attempted to describe the location of the newest pain in his oft-injured body, the worried look on Brad Lidge's face said enough.
For a moment, the Phillies closer stared blankly into space. A day before, after a particularly bad outing, he uncharacteristically declined to speak to reporters. On Friday morning, he called a group over to his locker.
The back of Lidge's right shoulder hurt. He has never felt soreness there before. He doesn't know what to make of it.
"I know," Lidge said, "I wish there was no pain."
A myriad of injuries have rarely tested Lidge's faith. The 34-year-old righthander is constantly optimistic when faced with a stint on the disabled list, as he is now. And it's not like this is anything new; Lidge will miss his third opening day in four seasons with the Phillies.
But even Lidge could concede this newest setback may be trouble.
"I'm a little concerned because I haven't had shoulder problems in the past," Lidge said. "That being said, there's other things in there you can have that can be a by-product of just straining it and they're not serious. That's obviously what I'm counting on right now."
That will not be known for a few days, until Lidge undergoes an MRI upon the team's return to Philadelphia. For now, Lidge is shut down indefinitely, and the Phillies must find a new closer in the six days before the opener.
Manager Charlie Manuel said he is not ready to choose between Ryan Madson and Jose Contreras. In Friday's 3-1 victory over Atlanta, Madson pitched a scoreless eighth, and Contreras closed it with a perfect ninth.
Manuel did say he's likely to pick one pitcher rather than using a two-man committee.
"We'll see," Manuel said. "I don't have to name one today."
No, but it is just another thing the Phillies manager must concern himself with during a spring that has only raised more questions about the four-time defending National League East champions.
Lidge was sidelined earlier this spring with biceps tendinitis, but the pain has migrated to the back of the shoulder. The Phillies have not ruled out a structural problem in the shoulder.
"It's all concerning, of course," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "Once we do further studies, we'll know more. We don't think it'll be a long-term issue, but it could be."
Lidge said the shoulder has bothered him this spring in addition to the biceps. It especially hurt in Thursday's outing, his first in a Grapefruit League game since March 11. He struck out the first two batters he faced against Minnesota but then allowed a home run, a single and two walks before he was removed without completing the inning against a bunch of Twins minor-leaguers.
"Basically trying to bump up from the percentage that I was throwing at, which was that 85, 86, 87-m.p.h. range, trying to get to the next step. I wasn't ready yet," Lidge said.
Lidge, who is due $11.5 million in 2011 with a club option for 2012, said he's optimistic he could be back by mid-April. The earliest he could come off the DL is April 9.
In the meantime, the Phillies must decide how to handle the ninth inning. Last season, when Lidge began on the DL, Madson was the closer until he blew a save in San Francisco and kicked a clubhouse chair in disgust. His broken right toe pushed Contreras into a closing role, and he converted all four of his chances in 2010.
Contreras, 39, was not a full-time reliever until last season.
Madson, viewed as one of the game's best setup men, has converted only 19 of his 26 save opportunities that have come in the ninth inning or later. He said his confidence in the ninth is higher now.
"If it's there," Madson said, "I'll take it, and I'm going to do it right this time."
Extra bases. Luis Castillo reached base three times on a single and two walks in Friday's game. Manuel also praised his defense at second. . . . Joe Blanton pitched six scoreless innings for the win. . . . Shane Victorino (facial bruises) and Placido Polanco (hyperextended left elbow) returned to the lineup. Polanco is still dealing with some soreness and will not play Saturday as the Phillies continue to monitor him. . . . Cliff Lee will start a minor-league game Monday so he can avoid letting Houston see him right before opening weekend. . . . Roy Oswalt (neck bruise) is scheduled to start Tuesday's exhibition in Philadelphia.
The Phillies' list of serious injuries grew longer Friday when closer Brad Lidge was shut down because of pain in his right shoulder. Here are the Phillies who will open the season on Friday against the Astros watching from the bench:
Brad Lidge, closer: Out indefinitely with undiagnosed pain in right shoulder. Likely to go on the disabled list.
Chase Utley, second base: Out indefinitely with patellar tendinitis in his right knee. Likely to go on the disabled list.
Domonic Brown, right field: Out with a broken bone in his right hand, he had stitches removed from the surgically repaired hand over the weekend. He is expected to be sidelined for about four more weeks.
These players are playing, but injuries have left them less than 100 percent:
Shane Victorino, center field: He played Friday after suffering facial bruises in an outfield collision with Raul Ibanez on Monday.
Placido Polanco, third base: He played Friday after hyperextending his left elbow on March 15.
Roy Oswalt, starting pitcher: He is scheduled to pitch Tuesday after suffering a bruised neck when he was hit by a line drive on Wednesday.
Jose Contreras, relief pitcher: He played Friday after missing two days with a scratched cornea in his left eye.