Brad Lidge yo-yo back on the upswing

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lidge_brad_091015.jpgStill worried about the Phillies bullpen?

For all the talk of Brad Lidge falling off the ledge, he certainly looked fine on Thursday night in the NLCS opener. So did the rest of his bullpen mates (aside from Ryan Madson’s hiccup), holding the Dodgers in check in a wild 8-6 victory.

The Dodgers figured to have an edge in this series in the bullpen department with a lockdown closer in Jonathan Broxton plus a whole host of talented guys like Ramon Troncoso and Ronald Belisario, and a solid lefty specialist in George Sherrill.

The Phillies, on the other hand, had Lidge, who after a perfect 48-for-48 2008 season, reverted in 2009 to the guy who seemed stalked by Albert Pujols in his nightmares. The ugliness lasted all season long, resulting in a line of 0-8, 7.21 that would make Mariah Carey cringe.

But a couple of things were overlooked heading into the playoffs.

For one thing, Lidge seemed to finally get his act together in the last part of the season, allowing one run in his last four appearances. Add to that the two saves he notched in a pair of scoreless appearances in the NLDS, and Phillies fans could at least hope that their incredible yo-yo of a closer was once again on the upswing.

Another overlooked advantage for the Phillies was their overall pitching depth. The Phillies have so many talented starting pitchers they don’t know what do with them all. Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee were guaranteed starting spots, but with the extended format of the playoffs, Charlie Manuel has had some flexibility in deciding what to do with J.A. Happ, Pedro Martinez, Joe Blanton and Chan Ho Park, who took Brett Myers’ spot on the NLCS roster.

On Thursday night, Happ came out of the bullpen to get one out, and Park looked strong in a perfect seventh inning. Having these guys ready to go in relief takes pressure off the back-end guys like Scott Eyre, Madson and of course, Lidge.

Look, this isn’t to say this series is close to being over. Lidge gave up a hit and a single on Thursday, and was fortunate to have a hard-hit grounder turn into a double-play ball.

It’s also difficult to predict what the Phillies will get out of Martinez in his Game 2 start Friday, which will be his first action since Sept. 30. (In fact, he hasn’t even pitched in a playoff game since helping the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004.)

But it’s still a good sign for the Phillies to see Lidge notching saves again.

“Honestly, for some reason I’ve really been locked in this postseason. I felt really good mechanically. I feel like myself. I feel pretty comfortable right now.”

Lidge is locked in? Uh oh, Dodgers.

Report: Jose Ramirez close to four-year extension with Indians

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Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports that third baseman Jose Ramirez is finalizing a four-year extension with the Indians. The deal is said to be worth north of $30 million, and may crest $50 million if all options are exercised. While the extension won’t take effect until the 2018 season, it guarantees Ramirez a $26 million sum with two options worth $11 and $13 million and will give the Indians control of the infielder through the 2023 season.

Ramirez, 24, is entering his fifth season in the Indians’ organization. He posted career-high numbers during his first full season in the majors, slashing .312/.363/.461 with 11 home runs, 22 stolen bases and 4.8 fWAR in 2016. He’s projected to have a strong follow-up season at the plate and will likely see some time at second base as Jason Kipnis works his way back from a shoulder injury.

Although 2016 only showcased the beginning of Ramirez’s success with the club, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman says it’s a standard move for Cleveland to “sign their stars early,” and indicates that Ramirez was rumored to want the deal. Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors adds that the extension will keep Ramirez under club control through three arbitration-eligible years and one year of potential free agency.

Diamondbacks return Rule 5 pick Tyler Jones to Yankees

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Diamondbacks’ right-hander Tyler Jones is headed back to the Yankees, the teams announced on Friday. The Diamondbacks had previously selected Jones in the Rule 5 draft last December, but elected to leave the 27-year-old off of their 40-man roster heading into the 2017 season. Rule 5 draft rules stipulate that when a player is not kept on the receiving team’s roster, the player must be offered back to his original team.

Jones signed a minor league contract with the Yankees prior to the 2016 season. He pitched to an impressive 2.17 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 13.2 SO/9 over 45 2/3 innings with Double-A Trenton, but was unable to make the leap to Triple-A or beyond during his stay with the organization.

Jones’ outlook with the Diamondbacks appeared slightly more promising. GM Mike Hazen described the righty as a power arm with a “good fastball and power curveball” after selecting him in the Rule 5 draft, and early reports indicated that Jones would be in the mix for a bullpen spot. A rough spring performance — underscored by his lack of experience at the Triple-A and major league levels — undid most of that confidence, however, and the Diamondbacks weren’t willing to keep him on the active roster throughout the entire 2017 season in order to acquire his control rights.

Jones is set to open the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, per a report from the Yankees.