For the first time in his life, Ryan Madson awoke yesterday morning as the Phillies' full-time closer . . . who had blown a save.

"I felt great," Madson said.

It is another step forward for Madson, as the Phillies groom their 30-year-old, homegrown setup man to become their closer.

Last year, during an audition in place of injured closer Brad Lidge, Madson blew a second save in six opportunities in April and, at the bottom of the clubhouse steps, kicked a folding chair and broke his right great toe. It sidelined him for more than 2 months.

Yesterday, after he gave up a solo homer that led to extra innings and an eventual Phillies loss, Madson was refreshed, eager and, most significantly, healthy.

This time, with Lidge out indefinitely, Madson succeeded Jose Contreras as closer and rolled to 14 straight saves. Then, he missed slightly with a fastball in a 2-0 count to Geovany Soto, who muscled it out and tied the game at 3.

Gone, perhaps, are the days when he demands perfection of himself.

"I needed to put it in a spot this big," Madson said, framing a space the size of a softball, "and I put it in a space this big," he said, expanding the space to the size of a volleyball. "I needed to be perfect. I wasn't.

"But it's the best pitch I could make in that situation."

Madson had pitched four times in 5 nights. As such, he said, he could not control his cutter, which limited him to his bread-and-butter staples: a 96-mph fastball and a devilish changeup.

The fastball comes hard, but it often comes flat, and it jumps when contacted flush.

Soto's was only the third homer Madson has served in his past 70 appearances, a span of 68 innings, and the first since Giants sprite Freddy Sanchez won Game 6 of the National League Championship Series with an unlikely solo home run.

"Both good pitches," Madson said, and, tipping his cap, said, "Sometimes, they get you."


Righthander Joe Blanton yesterday began a workout that mimics throwing motions. If he feels OK today, he will repeat that routine tomorrow, then will begin light throwing a day or two after that. Blanton landed on the DL with right elbow issues on May 23, retroactive to May 16, with right elbow issues. It is his second stint on the DL for the elbow. "I made the mistake of coming back too fast the first time," Blanton said . . . Roy Halladay has now faced every major league team in the regular season except the Giants and the Phillies. *