Daily Dose: Plug finally pulled on Lidge

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Charlie Manuel made things official Thursday, announcing that Brad Lidge will try to get back on track in “low-stress” situations while Ryan Madson takes over at closer. Manuel showed incredible patience with Lidge, allowing him to go 0-7 with 10 blown saves and a 7.11 ERA in 51 innings before losing his job. That also means that he’ll probably be quick to give Lidge another chance in the ninth inning if he pitches well.
In the meantime Madson will have tons of fantasy value down the stretch. He’s been one of the NL’s elite setup men since shifting to the bullpen full time in 2007, posting ERAs of 3.05, 3.05, and 3.10. He should have little trouble getting the job done one inning later than usual, but if Madson struggles or needs any days off Brett Myers will likely be asked to be step in now that he’s off the disabled list and looking healthy.
While the defending champs take advantage of their five-game lead in the NL East to get the bullpen right for October, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Eric Young Jr. went 2-for-3 with a walk and two steals Thursday, finally showing off the blazing speed that enabled him to swipe an amazing 80 bases per 150 games in the minors. Young’s father played 15 seasons in the majors, retiring just three years ago after hitting .283/.359/.390 with 465 steals over 1,730 games. Junior is a similar player, hitting .293/.385/.416 in the minors while showing modest power.
Young’s long-term position remains unclear, as he played almost exclusively second base until shifting to center field literally a few weeks ago, and was back in the infield Thursday for the Rockies. However, he’s batted at least .290 in each of the last four seasons and has always shown good patience, giving him the on-base skills needed to thrive without much pop. If he plays, his speed makes him a big fantasy asset.
* Luke Hochevar turned heads in July by racking up 22 strikeouts versus zero walks over a two-start stretch, but has gone 0-6 with an 8.12 ERA in eight starts since then. At this point back-to-back strong starts look like the clear aberration for a guy who’s 12-22 with a 5.61 ERA overall, but the former No. 1 overall pick got a little reason for optimism this week after discovering that he’s been tipping pitches. We’ll see.
AL Quick Hits: Chien-Ming Wang (shoulder) said Wednesday that he hopes to begin playing catch in January, but his future with the Yankees remains uncertain … Jarrod Washburn returned to the rotation Thursday, allowing three runs in five innings … Gil Meche (shoulder) is unlikely to pitch again this year after going 6-10 with a 5.09 ERA in 23 starts … As expected, Carlos Pena underwent surgery Thursday on his broken fingers and won’t resume baseball activities for several months … Brian Bannister is seeking a second opinion on his injured shoulder, which likely isn’t good news … In his final start before being shut down for the season, Brett Cecil tossed six innings of two-run ball Thursday to finish at 7-4 with a 5.30 ERA … Switch-hitter Carlos Guillen (shoulder) will be limited to batting from the left side of the plate for the remainder of the year … David Robertson (elbow) has been shut down for two weeks, but hopes to come back in October … Alex Gordon homered Thursday as the last-place Royals swept the first-place Tigers.
NL Quick Hits: Joe Blanton was knocked around for eight runs Thursday, snapping a streak of 11 straight Quality Starts … Garrett Atkins went deep at home Thursday for the first time since April … Mark DeRosa said Wednesday that he’ll need offseason surgery to fix a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist … Troy Tulowitzki missed his third straight game with back stiffness Thursday and Ian Stewart also sat out with a back problem of his own … Adam Rosales went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Thursday and is now hitting below .200 in 216 at-bats … Ian Desmond homered, doubled, and knocked in four runs Thursday in his first career start, making quite a first impression with the Nationals … Lance Berkman homered Thursday night for the first time in 33 games dating back to July 9 … Brian McCann snapped his 0-for-17 slump Thursday with four hits … Jose Contreras exited Thursday’s start after straining his quadriceps running out a ground ball.

Brandon Belt signs $6.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with Giants

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In a last-second compromise before a scheduled heading today, first baseman Brandon Belt and the Giants have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $6.2 million deal.

Belt requested $7.5 million and the Giants countered at $5.3 million, so they’ve settled slightly on the team-friendly side of the midpoint. Belt will be arbitration eligible again next season for the final time before hitting the open market as a free agent.

He’s coming off a very good season in which he hit .280 with 18 homers and an .834 OPS in 137 games and Belt has a lifetime .803 OPS through age 27, making him one of MLB’s most underrated all-around first baseman.

Orioles sign ex-Padres reliever Dale Thayer

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Right-hander Dale Thayer and the Orioles have agreed to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

Thayer had a rough 2015 season for the Padres, posting a 4.06 ERA and spending time in the minors, but he was a solid part of San Diego’s bullpen from 2012-2014 with a combined 3.02 ERA and 173/50 K/BB ratio in 188 innings.

At age 35 there’s no guarantee that Thayer will look good enough to claim a spot on the Opening Day roster, but he’s got a strong chance to wind up pitching middle relief for Baltimore.

Phillies acquire Taylor Featherston from Angels

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Taylor Featherston, who was designated for assignment by the Angels last week, has been traded to the Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.

Featherston stayed in the majors with the Angels for all of last season due to being a Rule 5 pick from the Rockies organization, but the 25-year-old infielder hit just .162 in 169 plate appearances.

He’s been much better in the minors, but nothing about his track record there screams quality regular and the Phillies are likely viewing him as a defense-first bench option for now.

Keith Law: The Braves have the best farm system in baseball

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Flags fly forever! Hooray for The Process championship!

Ah, sorry. This is about as much rooting as I’ll get to do this year, so cut me some slack.

This is the week when ESPN’s Keith Law releases his prospect and farm system rankings. He kicks off his content this week with a top-to-bottom ranking of all 30 farm systems. As a rule he limits his analysis to players who are currently in the minors and who have not yet exhausted their rookie of the year eligibility. The top system: the Atlanta Braves. The bottom: the Los Angeles Angels, about whom Law says “I’ve been doing these rankings for eight years now, and this is by far the worst system I’ve ever seen.” Enjoy Mike Trout, though, you guys.

If you want to know the reasons and the rankings of everyone in between you’ll have to get an ESPN Insider subscription. Sorry, I know everyone hates to pay for content on the Internet, but Keith and others who do this kind of work put a lot of damn work into it and this is what pays their bills. I typically don’t like to pay for content myself, but I do pay for an ESPN Insider subscription. It’s worth it for Law’s work alone. And though he drives me crazy sometimes, Buster Olney’s daily column/notes thing is also worth the money over the course of the year.