Brad Lidge returning tomorrow, but will he close?

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After back-to-back scoreless outings on his minor-league rehab assignment, Brad Lidge is scheduled to return from the disabled list tomorrow. Two weeks ago Charlie Manuel said Lidge may not immediately reclaim ninth-inning duties, but fill-in closer Ryan Madson blowing two of his last three save opportunities may have changed the manager’s mind.
Even setting aside the offseason knee and elbow surgeries that Lidge is coming back from now, he put together one of the worst closer seasons in baseball history last year by going 0-8 with 11 blown saves and a 7.21 ERA. In other words, three-week stint on the disabled list or not handing closer duties back to Lidge comes with plenty of question marks.
Lidge’s rehab assignment got off to a poor start, but he threw seven scoreless innings over his final six appearances and pronounced himself “ready to go” after totaling four strikeouts in two perfect innings Tuesday at Double-A.

Report: Phillies interested in Manny Machado; Orioles have done homework on Phillies’ minor league system

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Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.

The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.

Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.

As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.