READING - After months of rehab following two off-season surgeries, Brad Lidge seemed relieved yesterday as he sat in front of reporters and declared himself ready to pitch for the Phillies.
"After tonight, I feel ready," Lidge said after a two-inning rehab outing for the double-A Reading Phillies. "Being able to use all my pitches effectively, and being where I want to be both velocity-wise and command-wise, I feel like I'm pretty much ready to go. Everything felt really good."
In two innings, the 33-year-old closer threw 35 pitches, 23 for strikes. Lidge notched four strikeouts, all on off-speed pitches, and hit 89 m.p.h. on the FirstEnergy Stadium radar gun, although Lidge said that the Reading Phillies' coaching staff had him clocked as high as 93.
Behind flame-throwing righthander Stephen Strasburg, the Harrisburg Senators prevailed, 1-0, in the first game of a doubleheader. Chris Marrero's grand slam lifted Harrisburg to a 7-6 win in the nightcap.
The only baserunner Lidge allowed came on a throwing error by the shortstop. His only three-ball count came on his first batter, when Harrisburg's Danny Espinosa ran the count full but struck out swinging on an 80-m.p.h. slider.
"For me, tonight, I felt great," said Lidge, who had knee and elbow surgeries in the off-season. "I felt like I was able to take a little off, put a little on, and basically pitch, instead of just throw the ball."
There is no official timetable for his return, but the righty hopes to be back by the time the Phillies host the New York Mets on Friday.
Strasburg delivers. The 21-year-old Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick by Washington in last year's draft, pitched five perfect innings without allowing a hit or a walk. He threw 64 pitches, 42 for strikes, and struck out six Reading batters.
Reading star Domonic Brown was asked if he had ever faced a pitcher who could match Strasburg's power.
"Come on, man, no," Brown said with a laugh. "No, not at all."
On a cold night with a bitter wind blowing, Strasburg's fastball (which has been clocked at 100 m.p.h.) reached the mid-90s.
"The weather wasn't an issue at all," Strasburg said. "Nike makes great thermal gear."
Brown went 0 for 2 against Strasburg, including a strikeout on a curveball in the fourth inning.
"When you get up against a pitcher like this, who throws so hard, you have to turn your mojo down," said Brown, who was sidelined with a concussion the last time Strasburg pitched against Reading last Wednesday.
"You have to turn everything down because if you don't, he throws so hard that it's going to get on you quick. So slow it down, try to get a good pitch to hit, and if you get the bat on it, it might go."