Shoptalk wasn't the only reason for the visit.
Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee usually handles those duties.
"I wanted to go out there and look at him - see him, talk to him, look him in the eye and see what he'd give me," Manuel said later.
Lidge delivered a save in the Phils' 6-5 win - his first of three saves so far in the playoffs.
In reality, Manuel has been doing that with Lidge all season, trying to figure out what his perfect 2008 closer could give him night to night - sometimes batter to batter - in this most imperfect 2009 season. Ultimately, how Lidge responds in his return to the postseason high wire may determine the Phillies' chances of defending their world championship.
This isn't some gee-whiz redemption tale, not yet anyway. Lidge also got the save in the Phillies' Game 1 victory over the Dodgers - giving up a sharply hit single and a walk, sandwiching them around a double-play ball, before he nailed it down. In the clubhouse, Lidge was asked whether this season could ultimately prove to be more special for him than even last year.
"We still have a long way to go," Lidge said.
That was the night before five eighth-inning Phillies relief pitchers - none of them Lidge - combined to lose the lead in Game 2.
Lidge was the guy still out in the bullpen in case the Phillies held onto the lead.
To put that in perspective, rewind a little bit. Just last month, Lidge was reduced to mop-up duty. Before that, season-long headlines chronicled how he kept falling off the high wire.
Bullpen bungling: Lidge loses again . . . Answers still eluding Lidge . . . Lidge sees progress despite pair of runs . . . Will Walker be the closer? Well, maybe.
That last headline, in late September, was about how the Phillies might consider using a reliever, Tyler Walker - who later didn't even make their postseason roster - to close instead of Lidge.
After Lidge blew a major-league-high 11 saves with a putrid regular-season ERA of 7.21, the presumption was that the Phillies would have another closer - if anyone had grabbed the role, or even casually embraced it. Instead, Lidge's three postseason saves are tops so far among all teams.
There's some symmetry to this. Like probably no other pitcher in baseball history, Lidge's marquee moments are polar-opposite extremes. The 48 successful save opportunities last season, ending with Lidge's falling to his knees on the mound when the Phillies won the World Series. His other big moment is just as famous, available for viewing on YouTube. Pitching in Houston, Lidge was the pitcher who gave up a ninth-inning home run to Albert Pujols in 2005 that temporarily kept the Astros from getting to the World Series.
As it turned out, following the perfection was just as difficult as following the pain.
In the visitors' clubhouse at Citi Field before a Mets game in June, Lidge was asked into Manuel's office. Dubee, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., and trainer Scott Sheridan also were in there.
The subject: putting Lidge, six blown saves into his season, on the disabled list.
Manuel did most of the talking. It didn't go over well.
"He's a competitive person," Dubee said. "Brad has a big, big heart, big guts. We basically took the ball out of his hands."
Lidge eventually came around to embracing the idea that a right-knee sprain had messed up his mechanics to the point where he came to mistrust his fastball.
Dubee, given credit by Lidge for his help based on being an inveterate film watcher, spotted the mechanical flaws early.
"It affected delivery and affected angle," Dubee said. "He was falling off his line."
"I got out of whack badly mechanically," Lidge said.
Lidge didn't deny there were mental aspects to his struggles, that his mechanical problems led him into a psychological spin cycle.
"There's no question, when you get out there and you know you're not 100 percent, you start thinking about your delivery," Lidge said the day before Game 1 of the NLCS. "You start thinking, 'OK, if my leg kick is too high and I drive off my back leg, where's the breaking point? Where is it really going to hurt? What can I get away with?' It takes your focus away from what you're doing. And mentally, you're not quite locked in."
That led to another issue.
"I think when you're having a bad season, 7,000 people give you advice," Lidge said.
"One day, they'd be telling you that you were tipping your pitches. The next day, they're like, 'It doesn't matter if you're tipping your pitches, your stuff's too good. You're not going to get hit anyway.' It just goes back and forth. To be honest, it's probably a good thing that a lot of the most ridiculous things I don't remember. A lot of times they go in one ear and out the other."
Dubee said that Lidge's flawless '08 brought a special burden.
"I don't live in his body, but when you pitch to perfection like he did last year, whether it's your own expectations or fans' expectations or the media's expectations, they're out there," Dubee said. "You can't avoid them. They're something you have to deal with."
Lidge never hid from the media. Away from the ballpark, Lidge said, he doesn't read about himself in the paper or listen to Phillies talk on television or radio. He was like that last year, too, he said. He does plenty of reading, though.
"I'm always focused on reading history books," Lidge said, talking to a couple of reporters at his locker. "Right now I'm reading a book about the fall of the Roman Empire."
With time on his hands on the road, the former Notre Dame student - now married with two young children - takes online classes in religious studies through Regis University in Denver.
"It's kind of spread all over the map, Eastern religions, Western religions, some basic stuff right now, but it dials more into biblical studies," Lidge said. "The next round of classes doesn't come [until] November. I'm always kind of reading the class material ahead of time. I love doing this sort of thing. It's what I want to do after baseball. . . . I actually want to be a biblical archaeologist, or a religious archaeologist."
If Lidge can be considered a thoughtful person - as in full of thoughts - is that a good thing for a closer?
"Sometimes it depends on what you're thinking," Dubee said. "If you're thinking negative stuff, that's not good. If you're thinking positive stuff - then that's part of what we're trying to do all year."
Except, as Ricky Bottalico pointed out, Lidge gave up a home run in his second appearance this season after giving up just two all of last season. Bottalico, a former Phillies closer who provides postgame analysis for Phillies games on Comcast SportsNet, believes the mental struggles trump the physical factors in explaining Lidge's tough times.
"Brad Lidge had a dream season last year, a dream season. Perfection - that doesn't happen," Bottalico said. "Then he came back and really struggled. It played on his mind. Sometimes you start to say to yourself, 'Maybe this is my payback season from the baseball gods.' You've heard it said, a closer should have only a short-term memory. You have a bad day, the next day could be completely different. You've got to go out there and not have a care in the world."
If Lidge doesn't fit that devil-may-care mold, it makes his resurgence all the more impressive. It was built on a lot of little bricks, even from those unsolicited bits of advice.
"There's always a couple of good pieces among the 7,000 ridiculous things," Lidge said.
Asked if anybody away from the usual circle had helped him, Lidge mentioned Phillies veteran reserve slugger Matt Stairs, who had a "great point. He was saying something about my leg. Probably this year when my knee started hurting, my knee kick wasn't going nearly as high as it did before. He said that could make a big difference. To be honest, as soon as I started doing it, I started feeling a lot more powerful and my stuff had a lot more angle to it. It can add some deception, too."
Good thoughts obviously can't come until performances start to warrant it.
"The biggest thing is that he's committed to his fastball again," Dubee said.
It was easier for hitters to lay off his slider when Lidge didn't have command of his fastball. Phillies fans saw it all season. Lidge also brought a cutter back into his arsenal late in the season. Catcher Carlos Ruiz brought that up Friday as a positive development.
Manuel has gotten much of the credit for sticking with Lidge even as he took him out of the closer's role in September. When Manuel put in Lidge to get the last out of the regular-season division clincher, it was a feel-good moment as intended, but it also turned out to be more than symbolic.
"Charlie's been great with Brad, and Brad's been good with Charlie," Dubee said. "Charlie's been up front about how he's going to use him, that we need him, and we're going to try to get him spots to get him up and running the right way."
In the postseason, Lidge believes he has some advantages.
"Experience is definitely important," he said. . . . "But I think, to be honest, the focus needs to go up a notch. You have a little more adrenaline."
Manuel still doesn't want to use the term closer regarding Lidge. Remember how lefty Scott Eyre got two outs in the ninth inning in the final NLDS game before a righthanded Colorado batter came up and Lidge came in for the last out? That's not the kind of thing that happened last season.
Manuel isn't counting on perfection this time. Even in that Game 3 in Colorado, if Lidge didn't intend to leave one of his pitches over the plate to the lefthanded hitting Helton, he got away with it. Helton walked. Troy Tulowitzki, at least as dangerous but a better righty-against-righty matchup for Lidge, flied out to left. The Phillies won, edging ahead in a series that hung in the balance late into that frigid night.
On his trip to the mound, Manuel saw from Lidge what he went out there to find, the manager said.
"He was kind of relaxed," Manuel said. "He was wanting [to pitch] and everything. You could tell he was calm."
Contact staff writer Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or email@example.com.