Brad Lidge tossed a scoreless inning at Single-A yesterday in his third rehab appearance and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said afterward that “he threw extremely well.”
“He took a nice step forward,” Amaro said. “His slider was tighter. He had better location. I guess his velocity was 90-91. He felt good. He was much sharper and crisper.”
However, when asked about the Phillies’ plans once Lidge is ready to come off the disabled list manager Charlie Manuel told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that he may not be handed the closer job right away:
We could, depending on where he’s at and how he’s doing. It’s something to talk about. But I don’t know what we’re going to do. It depends on how we’re doing and where we’re at with our pitching. We want to do what’s best for Lidge and the team. First, we’ve got to get him back. We want him healthy, feeling 100 percent. If he’s 100 percent, he’ll have a good feeling about himself.
Amaro had a slightly different take, saying: “He’s our closer. He’s been our closer. He never stopped being our closer.” However, the GM also added that the decision is ultimately Manuel’s to make. “He’ll be used in whatever way Charlie and [pitching coach] Rich [Dubee] feel is best for the club. I assume he’ll be our closer, but it’s up to those guys.”
It’d be one thing if Lidge was coming back from an injury after his amazing 2008 season, but instead he’s coming back following one of the worst seasons by a closer in baseball history. Even without the injuries involved the Phillies would be right to think twice about returning him to the closer role after 11 blown saves and an absurd 7.21 ERA in 58.2 innings.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.