Lidge takes a hard look back The Phils' closer says he tried to convince himself he was OK last season.

Posted: February 18, 2010

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Brad Lidge spent the majority of last season changing his pitching mechanics to compensate for his injured knees, which in turn affected his arm. He never admitted publicly that the injuries contributed to a 2009 season in which he blew a league-leading total of 11 saves and posted a 7.21 ERA.

Now, after two off-season operations that have put him two weeks behind schedule entering spring training, Lidge can take a fresh look back on his worst season as a professional.

"The thing is," Lidge said, "you try and convince yourself as well that 'yeah, you're not 100 percent, but you'll be fine. You'll go out there, do your thing, and be able to get the same results as normal.' You try everything you can to do that.

"It's not so much trying to trick people as it is really trying to convince yourself as well. You've got to sell yourself on that. Otherwise, there is no reason to go out there.

"I was trying to convince myself the whole year that I could get it done the same way. And I felt like I could. Obviously, I wasn't the same guy last year as '08."

Lidge said he could be ready for opening day. He has yet to throw from a mound and could be ready to do so in about a week, he said. To be ready for opening day, he said, he would need to appear in at least 10 spring-training games.

But if he isn't ready, it's not a huge deal, he said. Being smart about his recovery is a priority for Lidge. He missed the first five games of the 2008 season after two knee operations but converted all 48 of his save opportunities.

Granted, even the 33-year-old Lidge said he did not foresee that happening again.

"I don't necessarily expect myself to have '08, but I expect myself to be a hell of a lot closer to '08 than '09, that's for sure," Lidge said. "I feel really optimistic that will be the case."

The reasons for that are his recent operations. In November, he had elbow surgery to repair a flexor tendon and remove a loose body. Then, in January, when his right knee was still bothering him after resting it, he had arthroscopic surgery.

Beginning in the second half of the season, Lidge said, he felt sharp pain in his right elbow at times.

"I knew it wouldn't be enough to make me stop pitching," Lidge said. "But I also knew it was probably the result of not being able to use my legs like I normally do."

Lidge said he changed his mechanics in 2009 to lessen the burden of pushing off his injured knee. But that caused problems with the location of his fastball, which led to his slider's being less effective. He developed a cutter "on the fly," which he does not plan to use again this season, he said.

The new mechanics made his delivery slower to the plate. Baserunners stole 11 of 12 times off Lidge - both steals and attempts marked career highs.

"If you look at it, runners stole bases off me at will last year," Lidge said.

After his two knee operations preceding the 2008 season, Lidge said, he changed his workout routine with hopes of building even more strength in his legs. That backfired, he said, because it ended up putting more strain on his knees.

Even given his formal acknowledgment of all that ailed him, Lidge steadfastly rejected the idea of shutting himself down at any point during 2009.

"I never let that thought cross my mind," Lidge said. "I'll never put myself on the DL. If they tell me to stop, that's one thing. If I can physically go out there, I'm going to."

Contact staff writer Matt Gelb at 215-854-2928 or mgelb@phillynews.com.

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