NEW YORK - Brad Lidge laughed when told by a reporter that the fans in Philadelphia are already worried about the Phillies after their 1-3 start.

Lidge, a hero of the Phillies' 2008 World Series championship team and now a reliever with the Washington Nationals, apparently has more confidence than some of the fans in his former team.

Speaking before Tuesday's game at Citi Field against the New York Mets, Lidge conceded that the National League East, which the Phillies have won five consecutive seasons, is more open this year.

But . . .

"I still think at the end of the year Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Vance Worley, [Kyle] Kendrick, [Joe] Blanton, whoever else they have out there, they are going to win a lot of games," Lidge said. "If they get dethroned out of the NL East, it will probably be because [Chase] Utley and [Ryan] Howard weren't able to come back as early or as effective as they were hoping."

Lidge said he expected both injured Phillies to eventually be factors.

"When Utley and Howard get back, it's still their division to lose," Lidge said. "But that being said, they won't win 102 games. We are going to win more games. The Marlins are going to win more games. The Mets and Braves I think, will be close to .500."

Lidge, who is getting chances to close because Drew Storen is on the disabled list with an elbow injury, said he has no idea how the division will play out. But he expects one of the wild-card teams to come from the NL East.

"I know in Philly they aren't off to the start they wanted," Lidge said. "During the course of the season those pitchers will play out the way they always play out, and nothing is going to change."

Then, he added with a laugh, "Of course there will be some panic" by some fans.