UPDATE: The news isn’t getting any better. Lidge told Martin Frank of the News Journal that he actually has a partially torn rotator cuff and will be shut down completely for 3-6 weeks. Frank writes that Lidge will need even more time once he’s actually able to throw and speculates that it could be early June before he returns.
5:20 PM: Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports that Phillies closer Brad Lidge is now expected to miss 3-6 weeks with his shoulder injury and manager Charlie Manuel said today that Jose Contreras is his first choice to fill in.
While not surprising, that’s probably frustrating news for Ryan Madson after he said earlier this month that he’d like an opportunity to close if he’s going to stay in Philadelphia beyond this year.
Madson is the Phillies’ best reliever and one of the elite relievers in the entire National League, but he’s struggled in a few brief stints as a fill-in closer previously and everyone from Manuel, pitching coach Rich Dubee, and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. seems unconvinced that he’s capable of thriving in the role long term.
Of course, Contreras hardly has a long history of closing success on his resume. In fact, he has a grand total of just four career saves. Madson has 20 career saves, including 15 in the past two seasons, and more importantly than what he’s done in a small sample of chances with ninth-inning duties is that he’s posted ERAs of 2.55, 3.26, 3.05, and 3.05 overall during the past four seasons.
Ultimately it won’t be a big deal if Lidge is able to return from the disabled list in just a few weeks, but with Madson eligible for free agency after this season it’s tough to imagine the Phillies being able to re-sign him if they won’t even let him be a fill-in closer. On the other hand, if they don’t trust him to fill in for Lidge perhaps they’re not all that interested in re-signing him anyway, which would be an odd stance given his excellence since becoming a full-time reliever in 2007.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.