MIAMI — Brad Lidge’s schedule was finally free of commitments to his children’s sports teams in Colorado, so he flew to Miami on Friday, put on a Phillies uniform and went to work.
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak and manager Gabe Kapler asked the closer of the 2008 world champions to join the Phillies as a guest instructor for the final series before the all-star break. The youngest team in baseball has made a surprising run to first place. The Phillies will play meaningful games in the second half for the first time since 2011. And who better than Lidge to prepare the relievers for the grind that awaits?
“It’s just an important thing to make sure I can relay what I know about taking care of your arm and everything else come September,” Lidge said. “All of a sudden you get to that month and it’s like every single game you play is tied or one run. You want to be able to get through that and you still want to be able to feel good in October, too.”
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The Phillies floated this idea to Lidge during spring training when he spent a week working with the team in Clearwater, Fla. It became more pertinent again once the Phillies started winning. Among their relievers, only Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter have pitched in the postseason. The rest of the bullpen is filled with young arms who lack the experience of pitching late in the season with big stakes on the line.
Lidge wants to help them prepare for that. He dressed this weekend in the team’s clubhouse and met with pitchers before and after games. The relievers’ arms will certainly be taxed in the second half, as every pitcher is on pace to set a career high in appearances. Lidge, who reached the postseason six times, shared small tips on how to stay fresh when the innings start to pile up.
It’s OK, Lidge told them, to not throw off a bullpen mound every afternoon. Save your best bullets for the game and just play catch for a few minutes. The pitchers have to learn when to stop pushing themselves, but changing their routine is hard to do, Lidge said. The pitchers will be thankful they did when the intensity heightens in the second half and their arms aren’t hanging, he explained.
“They’re learning it right now. They’re going through it right now. The great thing is, so far, everyone is passing the tests,” Lidge said. “You just hope that trend continues. Being young, you don’t really know until you get there. You don’t know how your arm’s going to feel at the end of September when you’ve thrown three days in a row and you still have to be up on that fourth day. I know that’s super taboo these days, to throw four days in a row. But if you’re in the middle of a pennant race and it’s late September, you might have to do that.”
The Phillies have not yet set their pitching rotation for after the all-star break. … Ryan Howard tweeted advice for Rhys Hoskins, who will compete in Monday’s Home Run Derby. “Be you and have fun. When the first one goes down, you’ll find your flow,” said Howard, who won the 2006 event in Pittsburgh.