Righthander Brad Lidge was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right knee, retroactive to June 7, the Phillies announced today. To take his spot on the 25-man roster, the Phillies selected the contract of catcher Paul Bako from double-A Reading.
The Phillies clubhouse does not open to the media for another hour and 15 minutes, so for approximately that frame of time, we don't have much in the way of an explanation for the club's decision to send Brad Lidge to the 15-day disabled list and replace him with catcher Paul Bako, whom the team signed last month after he was waived by the Cubs.
Clearly, this has as much to do with Lidge's recent results as it does the actual pain in his right knee, which has bothered him since early in the season and led to him being shut down from April 26 through May 1. Lidge blew two one-run ninth-inning leads at Dodger Stadium this weekend, and he is currently 0-3 with a 7.27 ERA. After going a perfect 41-for-41 last regular season, he has converted just 13 of 19 save opportunities this season. The difference between Phillies sweeps at Yankee Stadium and Dodger Stadium were three blown saves.
I talked to Lidge about his knee on Thursday in Los Angeles. I was curious about how his knee had responded after pitching in, and saving, four straight games from May 29 through June 1. At the time, he had saved five straight games, allowing one hit and one walk while striking out five in 4 2/3 scoreless innings.
Lidge said that the pain in the knee was still there, but that he did not think it was affecting him on the field.
"It's stronger now, I think," said Lidge, who has worn special inserts in his shoes to fix a slight bend in his right leg that might have contributed to his frequent knee issues. "It feels like I don't really have to worry about it as much anymore. I don't have to worry if it's going to respond. It's stronger, and I am confident that it will [respond].
"[The inflammation is] still there, and it might be for a while, but I'm not thinking about it when I'm pitching."
But Lidge blew a save the following night, allowing two runs on two hits in 2/3 of an inning. Then, on Saturday, he allowed a solo home run to Rafael Furcal that tied the game in the ninth. The Dodgers went on to win in 12 innings.
Whether or not Lidge was being a good soldier in playing down the knee injury, the fact remains the Phillies need him to rediscover the groove that he had last season. They don't need him to be perfect again. But the difference between three blown saves and six blown saves at this point is the difference between a three-game lead in the National League East and a six-game lead.
If such a move was going to be made, now is a logical time. Lefthander J.C. Romero is back and has set-up type stuff. Set-up man Ryan Madson, meanwhile, has been impeccable. Heading into tonight's game against the Mets, the righthander is riding a streak of 10 2/3 scoreless innings. During that stretch he has allowed just five hits and three walks while striking out 13. The Phillies have also been carrying an extra arm in the bullpen since sending outfielder John Mayberry Jr. back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley last Monday night.
A few other observations:
1) The move is retroactive to June 7, the last time Lidge pitched, meaning he will eligible to return on June 22.
2) Bako is known as an experienced defensive catcher, one who served as Greg Maddux's personal back-stop for a time in Atlanta. Although the Phillies have not said this, it would seem that the move will allow Chris Coste to become the right-handed bench player that the team has sought since the end of last season.
3) Bako is expected to be in uniform tonight against the Mets.