Lidge leaves Houston with no regrets
Veteran reliever traded to Phillies in five-player deal
HOUSTON -- Brad Lidge has only known one organization since he hit the professional ranks nearly 10 years ago. Late Wednesday evening, he found out it was time to say goodbye.
Lidge, the Astros' first pick in the 1998 First-Year Player Draft, will close games for the Phillies beginning in 2008 after being traded, along with Eric Bruntlett, in exchange for outfielder Michael Bourn, right-hander Geoff Geary and third base prospect Mike Costanzo.
Lidge, speaking via cell phone from his home in Colorado, struggled to wrap his mind around the news soon after the trade was announced.
"I'm not totally grasping it right now," Lidge said. "It's surreal."
Lidge said he was not shocked, but somewhat surprised. He's been dealing with trade rumors his entire career, but when Ed Wade replaced Tim Purpura as general manager of the club in August, Lidge knew there was a stronger chance he would not be with the Astros beyond this year.
"You prepare yourself for something like this, especially with a new GM," Lidge said. "I knew it was a possibility. I was still thinking it wasn't going happen, but I wasn't shocked when it did."
The trade ends the closer's colorful five-year Astros career that included a little bit of everything -- a rise to stardom, tremendous triumphs and trying times that tested Lidge's will and tenacity under the glare of harsh scrutiny.
Lidge, 30, broke into the big leagues in 2003, but circumstances surrounding a 2004 midseason blockbuster trade truly put him on the baseball map.
In June of that year, the Astros orchestrated a three-team trade that sent struggling closer Octavio Dotel to Oakland and Carlos Beltran from Kansas City to Houston. Lidge, then a setup man, moved into the closer's role.
He converted 29 of 33 save opportunities and ended the season with a 1.93 ERA, only to top those numbers during the postseason. He allowed one run over 12 1/3 innings in the Division Series and League Championship Series, including eight scoreless frames against the Cardinals in the LCS. In the latter series, he struck out 14.
Lidge never matched that 2004 dominance. He had a good regular season in 2005, but he struggled in the playoffs, allowing key home runs to Albert Pujols in the NLCS and Scott Podsednik in the World Series. Lidge struggled again in 2006, causing him to lose his closer job for a brief time. He began the 2007 season as the closer, but he lost it after one week. He won the job back by midseason but blew eight saves over the course of the year.
Through it all, Lidge said he leaves Houston with no regrets and only warm feelings for his now former team.
"I loved all of my time spent in Houston," he said. "From pitching in the All-Star Game [in 2005] to losing my job as closer to everything in between. The no-hitter against the Yankees in 2003. I have awesome memories and no regrets. Every pitch I have ever thrown, I have absolutely no regrets.
"I was lucky to spend five years in Houston and establish myself as who I am today based on that. Hopefully I'll see them in the playoffs. I wish them nothing but the best."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.