CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Closer Brad Lidge was scheduled to make the trip to Kissimmee for the Phillies exhibition game against the Houston Astros Monday, but when the bus departed at 8 a.m. he was not on it.
The reason: Soreness in his biceps tendon.
"We just wanted to back him off for a couple days," general manager Ruben Amaro said.
Lidge, who has had a history of spring training health issues since joining the Phillies, did not think the soreness would keep him from being ready for the April 1 season opener against Houston. The pitcher admitted, however, that the problem has affected him for a couple weeks.
"To be honest, I felt great coming down here, but somewhere in my first outing or two I just felt a little tightness in my shoulder and I tried to throw through it a couple times," Lidge said. "Obviously it was hard to have great control and improve on arm strength when you're trying to fight through it a little bit, so we just decided (to shut down). It's not really a major deal. It's biceps tendinitis. We'll let it calm down for a couple days, play catch for a couple days and get back in there soon."
Lidge last pitched Friday against the Baltimore Orioles and allowed two runs on three hits. He has allowed runs in four of five games. Afterward, he said there was no reason to worry about his 9.00 ERA or a lack of velocity. A National League scout said Monday that Lidge's fastball had been topping out at 88 m.p.h.
"That's really just a result of trying to go out there and not really feel very comfortable throwing, because there is some shoulder stiffness," Lidge said. "There are a lot of things that are very difficult to do when you're not feeling great and there is no reason to try and do that at this point in spring training.
"I know if my shoulder is feeling good right now, I can ramp it up to where I need to be during the season, but we need a couple days to make that happen. I know I need to ramp it up at some point, but it's just hard to do when you have a little tendinitis working. We'll let that take care of itself and then I'll jump back in there and get my arm strength and everything else back where I need it."
The closer is so convinced that he'll be ready for opening day that he said if this were the regular season right now he would continue pitching.
"We're completely expecting to be ready when the season rolls around," Lidge said. "It's normal spring-training stuff. I'll still get plenty more outings for me to be ready and comfortable before the season starts. One advantage of being a reliever in spring training is that there are so many games you can pitch in and there is so much extra time to get ready that if you have things that keep you out a few days along the line it's pretty standard protocol that you take them and make sure you're firing 100-percent bullets on April 1. I'm definitely not worried. This is really a minor thing."
The most encouraging thing, according to Lidge, is that he has been able to throw his slider effectively despite the soreness.
"My slider is feeling great, but at the same time we want to make sure everything is firing when the season starts," Lidge said. "It is nice to know I can go to my pitch when I need to go to it. That's why I say if it was still the regular season I'd keep throwing because I know I could get people out, but when you're trying to work on things and you're not feeling great, it kind of defeats the purpose."
Lidge is next scheduled to pitch in a 'B' game against Toronto Thursday morning, but he said he will probably be sidelined longer than that.
"Not too long after that," Lidge said. "Maybe a bullpen on Thursday and then hopefully jump back in there real fast."
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