Lidge may not be ready for opener
Closer not worried about knee, focused on building arm speed
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Brad Lidge no longer thinks about potential right knee pain when he pitches. He's content in that aspect of his development.The Phillies' closer is also about "95 percent" set on his entrance music at Citizens Bank Park, so fans of Drowning Pool's "Soldiers" can expect to hear it when the Phillies have a ninth-inning lead. The final hurdle, according to Lidge, remains getting his arm speed to the proper place as Spring Training enters its final week. "I've got three more outings to go, and I need to start generating some velocity," said Lidge, after pitching in a Minor League game Sunday at the Carpenter Complex. "I'm not where I want to be in terms of arm speed. That's the biggest thing for me. I can get it a lot better in my next few outings, so I still feel like I'll be ready for Opening Day." Lidge threw 16 pitches against hitters that included Andy Tracy and Valentino Pascucci. He loaded the bases on two hits and a walk, but induced a double-play grounder. He then threw eight more pitches in the bullpen. Lidge estimated his fastball velocity at around "90 to 92 [mph]" and would like pick up a mile per hour in each of his final three spring outings. According to the schedule posted in the clubhouse at Bright House Field, those will be Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in Minor League games. Pitching on Saturday means he'll remain in Florida while his teammates prepare for Opening Day in Philadelphia. Disappointed in his slider and fastball, Lidge was hoping to polish them in Grapefruit League play. Though content with his progress, the Phillies remain cautious on whether Lidge will avoid the disabled list. "That's going to be determined by the medical people," assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle said. "What we saw today was very positive. The stuff's good. He doesn't give any indication that he's favoring his leg. He just has to improve his command. He needs some more outings." Then, it's time for "Soldiers," which Lidge said is in honor of a good friend in the Air Force. "[The song] was originally for the Armed Forces, and [Lidge's friend] said, 'You've got to play that one.'" Lidge's readiness for Opening Day would be a boost for the bullpen that includes Tom Gordon, Ryan Madson, J.C. Romero, Chad Durbin and likely Clay Condrey. The final spot will be filled either internally with Travis Blackley, J.D. Durbin, Vic Darensbourg or Gary Knotts, or externally. "We're still looking every day," Arbuckle said. "We're constantly looking for ways to improve the club. We know what we have in camp, but we're still having conversations. It's a pretty fluid conversation, because everybody else is in the same boat we are. They're trying to figure out how the pieces fit this last week of camp. If something shakes loose somewhere else, we're still interested in taking hard looks."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.