CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Brad Lidge said he's optimistic this new shoulder soreness will keep him out until mid-April. But the Phillies have yet to perform an MRI (which could show further damage), he will be shut down indefinitely and the problem may have arose from him rushing back from a previous injury.
So we will say mid-April is very optimistic.
His absence leaves many questions and points for debate.
1. Who will close? This is the most obvious jumping-off point. Ruben Amaro Jr. listed Jose Contreras and Ryan Madson as the two candidates.
Last April, when Lidge also began the season on the disabled list, Madson had first crack at it. That stint ended in a broken right toe in San Francisco. In nine innings, Madson had a 7.00 ERA and he converted four of his six save chances.
About two weeks ago I did a story on Madson, who is a free agent after this season and craving another shot at the ninth inning. He says he has a new mentality when it comes to closing games.
Then there is Contreras, who filled in for Madson who was filling in for Lidge. In a span of 15 May games, Contreras pitched the ninth five times. He converted all three save opportunities and did not allow a run in 7 2/3 innings.
Contreras was the surprise of the season in the bullpen. The Phillies signed the 39-year-old with no expectations. He became a reliable setup man.
There will be two schools of thought here: A) Madson has pitched the eighth, he has great stuff, and deserves a shot at closer. B) Madson is the best setup man in the game, so why move him from that role?
2. Does this bump Michael Martinez off the roster? For the last few days, I've been floating this crazy theory the Phillies take 11 pitchers north. OK, it's not that crazy but most of my colleagues say it is. The simple reasoning for carrying 11 was to keep both Luis Castillo and Rule 5 pick Michael Martinez.
That is probably out the window now. Amaro said the Phillies will take 12 pitchers and that is necessary now. It means one of the bench players on the fringe is out.
The Phillies like Martinez, but they need to keep him on the 25-man roster or they will have to offer him back to Washington. Of course, the Nationals could decide they don't want Martinez back and the two teams can work out a deal so the Phillies hold his full rights and can send him down. But they are division rivals.
I still think Delwyn Young is on because of his versatility, switch hitting and pop off the bench. So it means spot 25 is down to Castillo and Martinez, most likely. Josh Barfield and Pete Orr can go to the minors.
3. Who pitches the seventh inning? The answer the Phillies are probably hoping for is Danys Baez. He is, after all, making $2.75 million in 2011 and has a decent track record. But 2010 was an unmitigated disaster and while he has looked better at times this spring, he has still gotten hit hard too.
This is always the most interesting thing: the trickle-down factor. Everyone moves up a spot now. Other than Baez, who else pitches the seventh? Kyle Kendrick? Antonio Bastardo? David Herndon?
4. So now that they're taking 12 pitchers, who gets on? Well, we'll give Bastardo a spot as the second lefty. He's been good this spring has proved all he needs to in the minors.
The 12th spot probably comes down to David Herndon, Scott Mathieson and... how about Mike Stutes? He was sent back to minor-league camp a week ago but the Phillies were impressed. Or maybe they scour the waiver wire for some last-minute cuts.
Hey, only a week until opening day.
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