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UPDATE: Brad Lidge shut down for 3-6 weeks and Jose Contreras, not Ryan Madson, set to fill in

Mar 29, 2011, 6:29 PM EDT

Brad Lidge AP

UPDATE: The news isn’t getting any better. Lidge told Martin Frank of the News Journal that he actually has a partially torn rotator cuff and will be shut down completely for 3-6 weeks. Frank writes that Lidge will need even more time once he’s actually able to throw and speculates that it could be early June before he returns.

5:20 PM: Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports that Phillies closer Brad Lidge is now expected to miss 3-6 weeks with his shoulder injury and manager Charlie Manuel said today that Jose Contreras is his first choice to fill in.

While not surprising, that’s probably frustrating news for Ryan Madson after he said earlier this month that he’d like an opportunity to close if he’s going to stay in Philadelphia beyond this year.

Madson is the Phillies’ best reliever and one of the elite relievers in the entire National League, but he’s struggled in a few brief stints as a fill-in closer previously and everyone from Manuel, pitching coach Rich Dubee, and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. seems unconvinced that he’s capable of thriving in the role long term.

Of course, Contreras hardly has a long history of closing success on his resume. In fact, he has a grand total of just four career saves. Madson has 20 career saves, including 15 in the past two seasons, and more importantly than what he’s done in a small sample of chances with ninth-inning duties is that he’s posted ERAs of 2.55, 3.26, 3.05, and 3.05 overall during the past four seasons.

Ultimately it won’t be a big deal if Lidge is able to return from the disabled list in just a few weeks, but with Madson eligible for free agency after this season it’s tough to imagine the Phillies being able to re-sign him if they won’t even let him be a fill-in closer. On the other hand, if they don’t trust him to fill in for Lidge perhaps they’re not all that interested in re-signing him anyway, which would be an odd stance given his excellence since becoming a full-time reliever in 2007.

  1. Utley's Hair - Mar 29, 2011 at 5:33 PM

    While that may make MadDog well, mad, I think it’s the right move. If Lidge’s absence drags on much longer, maybe giv Madson a few chances later on, but not right now based on his past closing performance.

    • sjhaack - Mar 29, 2011 at 9:43 PM

      It appears I like this move for the exact opposite reason you do. I trust Big Truck to get 3 outs most of the time. Charlie Manuel has shown that he is completely standard and uncreative with his closer use, so not limiting his best relief pitcher to only the 9th inning with a clean start is probably better in the long run.

      I know Mad Dog is upset, but he’s more valuable this way.

  2. Utley's Hair - Mar 29, 2011 at 6:52 PM

    Well, this update and Brad’s take on the situation should provide Jonny 5 with some solace.

  3. xmatt0926x - Mar 29, 2011 at 8:11 PM

    I wasn’t hoping for much from Lidge to begin with so I’m good with someone else getting a shot. Yeah, Lidge had his nice stretch late last year but he’s been shaky at best for the greater part of 2 seasons. With the offense floundering most of the save opportunities will be with small leads and this team can’t afford the yearly Lidge blowup over several weeks. Atlanta is too good to keep hoping Lidge gets better especially since the division winning difference may be just a game or two.

  4. psousa1 - Mar 30, 2011 at 9:18 AM

    Wow – a 63 year old closer. But he can still bring it for an inning at a time. He’ll hold his own. Still the greatest forkball ever.

  5. mercyflush - Mar 30, 2011 at 9:44 AM

    I disagree with Uncel Cholly’s strategy for the following reasons:

    -Madson has the best stuff out of the Phillies bullpen, and it’s not even close.

    -He hasn’t had great success closing in the past, but he’s also been bouncing around different bullpen roles. There’s something to telling a guy “you are our closer” from day 1.

    -He’s a pending FA, and the Phillies will need to sign a closer this offseason, since thankfully Lidge’s contract is also up after this year. Why not let him close now and see if he sinks or swims? Madson is in his prime, and if he does thrive in that role this year he could be your closer for the next few years.

    -It’s a long season. If you’re going to experiment with your closer, the first couple months of the year is the time to do it.

    -You can always fall back on Contreras, and in the meantime you can use him as the setup guy, which he should be able to handle fine.

  6. macjacmccoy - Mar 30, 2011 at 7:34 PM

    Im of the school that it doesnt matter who pitches in the 8th or 9th. Its just as important to keep a game at 2-1 in the 8th as it is in the 9th.

    I get that in the 9th it means the game is over but if you blow it in the 8th then chances are the guy in the 9th isnt going to be closing the game out for a win anyway. Its 1 thing for guys like Wilson or Mariano only be used in the 9th bc there studs back there thats what they do but when its between Madson or Conteras it doesnt matter who pitches when.

    Well actually in the Phillies thinking they want Madson to stay locked in in the 8th inning and bc of the way he has struggled closing they think moving him to the 9th until Lidge comes back could throw him off and continue to mess him up even after Lidge returns. So it actually might matter who pitches in the 8th or 9th bc pitching Madson in the 9th could have an adverse effect on his play and mentality.

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