Lidge's awful performance forces DL trip

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Unlike the Mets with Oliver Perez, the Phillies didn’t dream up a knee
injury to excuse putting Brad Lidge on the DL — the inflammation is
real and has bothered him since April. Still, this is all about lousy
pitching.

Pretty much everything has gone wrong for Lidge since he closed out the
2008 World Series. He complained of forearm tightness during the spring
and didn’t make his Grapefruit League debut until March 17. He was
generally ineffective over the rest of March, and while he did convert
his first three save chances of the regular season, he gave up runs in
two of them. On April 18, his run of 47 straight save conversions (54
including the postseason) ended when he gave up four runs in a loss to
the Padres. Since that date, he’s blown six of his 16 chances. He’s
allowed runs in 13 of his 28 appearances this season, and his ERA
stands at 7.27.

What worked for Lidge last year just isn’t this season. In 2008, he
threw his slider more than half of the time for the first time in his
career. He was doing the same thing this season, but hitters were doing
a much better job of laying off it and waiting for fastballs. It’s no
secret that Lidge doesn’t throw quite as hard as he used to, but that’s
not just a fastball issue. His slider, which once averaged 88 mph, is
down to 85 mph now, giving hitters more time to let it go if it’s a
ball or foul it off if it’s a strike. He still gets his fastball to the
plate at 92-95 mph, but without a lot of movement, it’s a hittable
pitch.

Just look at what’s happened to Lidge when he’s not getting ahead of the count and keeping the hitters honest:

2008
After 1-0 – .271 AVG, .374 SLG in 131 PA
After 0-1 – .130 AVG, .179 SLG in 136 PA

2009
After 1-0 – .354 AVG, .833 SLG in 60 PA
After 0-1 – .226 AVG, .321 SLG in 57 PA

Lidge isn’t as good as usual in slider counts either, but when
hitters can guess fastball, they’re feasting off him. Six of the seven
homers off him have come after 1-0.

I’m not sure what’s next, but I think the DL stint was past due;
Lidge badly needs some time off to think about things. His stuff is
still plenty good enough to get outs. The loss in velocity is quite
real, but there was a bigger drop-off prior to 2008 than there has been
since. Given time to work on his delivery and maybe attempt to hide his
slider a little better, he has a chance to come back and reemerge as a
shutdown closer. In the meantime, the Phillies will be just fine in the
ninth inning with Ryan Madson. Getting to him in the seventh and eighth
could be a problem, but at least they have J.C. Romero back from his
suspension.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.