CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies have said Ryan Madson or Jose Contreras could close while Brad Lidge is out with a shoulder injury.
Madson would embrace the opportunity.
Madson learned a few things about himself last season. It started when he kicked a metal chair and broke his big right toe in April, and it ended when he had a long talk in August with his agent, Scott Boras.
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"I haven't proven what I can do," Madson said on Friday at Bright House Field. "I put a little too much pressure on myself probably the last couple of times. This year it's going to be different."
Madson is 6-8 with a 9.00 ERA and 20 saves in 44 opportunities in his career, but those numbers are deceiving. Most of those situations came as a setup man. They do not account for the 110 times he successfully earned holds with a game on the line.
Madson pitched 21 times in save situations as a closer the previous two seasons. He converted 15 of those chances, with a 4.84 ERA.
That isn't good. He needs to perform much better in those situations, especially if he wants a future as a closer.
"I would like another crack at it," he said.
On April 28 last year, Madson broke his toe in frustration after blowing a save against the Giants at AT&T Park. He said the injury actually helped his mechanics, as during his rehab, he threw without the benefit of using his legs. Those improved mechanics helped him finish the season with a 1.64 ERA in 46 appearances.
But a long talk with Boras really got him thinking differently about save situations as a closer.
"[I can't try to] be perfect," Madson said. "[I can't] try to prove to the world that I can do it. Just go out there and pitch. I tried to have that mentality last year, but it didn't work out on the mound. I didn't bring it into the game. This year I'm going to bring it to the game with a relaxed focus and go after it.
"We went out to L.A. [in August], and [Boras said], 'What was your mentality when you were closing?' I was like, 'Well, I thought I was going to be perfect.' I really thought I was going to be perfect and not blow one save. That was my mentality going out there. That's kind of what I was like in the Minor Leagues, and I just stuck with that.
"And he said, 'It doesn't work that way. You're putting too much emphasis on every pitch. It's got to be perfect. Then, when you blow a save, it carries on. Little things happen. It's so finicky of an inning, you can't be finicky with your mind. You've got to be solid.'
"After I was done talking to him, I was like, 'Where's the pitching mound? Let me try this.' It was like a salesman talking you into a better car."
Madson certainly has the stuff to be a closer, but he has not proven that he can handle the job on a long-term basis. Depending on the severity of Lidge's injury, he could get a good, long look in the role.
It comes at a big time, too.
Madson can be a free agent after this season. If he proves he can close, he would be in line for a big payday. Lidge has a $12.5 million option for 2012 that seems likely to be declined, especially if Madson pitches well and the Phillies gain confidence that he can handle the role.
"I'm not worried about that," Madson said. "I'll do just fine as a setup guy. This creates a little bit more ... not necessarily more pressure, just more opportunity.
"I haven't been told anything yet. Obviously, there are a couple of guys that could fill that role. But I'll be out there. I'll be ready in the eighth, ninth, whenever. I'm just still trying to get myself locked in and not worry about where I'll be pitching, inning-wise."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.