Phillies' Lidge signs with Nationals

A moment forever etched in the minds of Phillies fans: Brad Lidge falling to his knees after the final out of the 2008 World Series. His three subsequent injury-plagued years were far less memorable.
A moment forever etched in the minds of Phillies fans: Brad Lidge falling to his knees after the final out of the 2008 World Series. His three subsequent injury-plagued years were far less memorable. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 27, 2012

There will always be 48 for 48, "Oh, my God, we just won the World Series!" and one of the most iconic moments in Philadelphia sports history. Brad Lidge will always have those memories, no matter how much he wanted to continue his career in a Phillies uniform.

His time in Philadelphia ended Thursday when the erstwhile closer signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Washington Nationals. The Phillies, teetering at the luxury tax limit and leery of Lidge's health, did not formally offer him a contract, according to a source.

"It's tough," manager Charlie Manuel said at the Phillies' winter caravan at DeSales University. "It's tough for Brad, but it's also tough for us."

Lidge, 35, has spent the winter working out at Citizens Bank Park. His agent, Rex Gary, said the Phillies kept Lidge involved in discussions the entire time. But there was no match.

Instead, the Phillies will trust the young arms in the bullpen, now led by Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies are optimistic Jose Contreras can provide another veteran presence in the bullpen, but the Cuban righthander only recently began light throwing and will be limited in spring training. Contreras underwent elbow surgery in September.

If the 40-year-old Contreras flames out again, Manuel said, the manager was content with relying on less-experienced pitchers.

"We have some question marks in our bullpen," Manuel said. "But at the same time, we always have one or two guys a year that come into their own and they throw better than they usually have. Right now, I'm not really concerned about all that."

The Phillies had never publicly ruled out a return for Lidge, who finished a three-year, $37.5 million contract. All things being equal, Lidge said he would choose Philadelphia over other offers. That option never presented itself.

Questions regarding Lidge's health will be what terminated the relationship. He began 2011 as the closer only to feel pain in his right shoulder during a Grapefruit League game March 24. He didn't pitch again until July 25. Limited to 191/3 innings last season, Lidge did post a 1.40 ERA. But he stranded 90 percent of runners, an unsustainable rate, while experiencing an even further dip in fastball velocity.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said the team's medical staff examined Lidge's shoulder with an enhanced MRI exam. He pitched with a partially torn rotator cuff last season.

"The doctors signed off on it," Rizzo told CSNWashington.com. "They say his shoulder is strong. He's healthy. He feels great. He's in great shape and coming in here with a great attitude and ready to prove to the baseball world he's got a lot left in the tank and he's ready to help us win games."

His time in Philadelphia was up and down. The highest was when he dropped to his knees that soggy October night. He saved 48 games in 48 chances (including the postseason) in 2008, but just 64 over the next three seasons.

Now he'll work as a setup man in front of Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard in Washington.

"He was disappointed because we couldn't work something out with him," Manuel said. "He was with us through our glory days."

Extra bases. Manuel visited with a rehabbing Ryan Howard in Clearwater, Fla., last week and said doctors termed him "ahead of schedule." But the Phillies still project him for a likely May return. With some extra time, Manuel said, he planned to yet again try to persuade Howard to move closer to the plate - an annual ritual that signals meaningful baseball is nearing. "This gives us a chance, I think, to really key in on it," Manuel said. That suggestion has been unsuccessful in the past. . . . The Phillies remain unlikely to add another major-league contract to their payroll before spring training begins because of the luxury tax threshold of $178 million.


Contact staff writer Matt Gelb

at mgelb@phillynews.com or @magelb on Twitter.

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