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PHILADELPHIA -- The foundation for the "Bridge to Lidge" was laid in Spring Training, when Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee got firmly in Ryan Madson's ear.
It was a topic he'd been waiting three years to discuss. With every pitch he watched the right-hander throw, during the good stretches and bad, Dubee wondered if the kid would ever put everything together.
Dubee would see a hitter flail at a 96-mph fastball or 82-mph changeup and smile, then cringe when another crushed a batting-practice-straight offering, or perhaps an experimental curvee.
This spring, Dubee had something to say. He spoke to Madson about keeping his 6-foot-6, 200-pound frame ready for 162-plus games. He talked about work ethic and preparation.
Dubee talked about desire. Really, he spoke about potential and how it related to Madson.
"I challenged him," Dubee said. "I told him he's cheating his family, cheating himself. I said, 'You've got so much upside that you owe it to yourself to do what you need to do to be the guy you should be. You could be the biggest piece we have here to get the ball to Brad Lidge. But you have to change your ways.'"
The bridge to Lidge began to take hold.
"It was a good conversation, and I understood completely," Madson said after Friday's workout at Citizens Bank Park. "When you have talent, you have to do something with it. I knew this going in. You have to step up and seize a role. Sometimes, you have to fight so hard to get that role."
Success in that role can lead to financial success, which Dubee used as a motivating factor.
"It was a point he wanted to make," Madson said. "It was perfect. It's what this game is all about. Go out there and have fun, but in the end, I'm playing for my family, my kids."
Madson has been outstanding for his team, too, especially since allowing three runs in the eighth inning on Aug. 28 at Wrigley Field -- an outing which he took particularly hard. The right-hander has yielded just two earned runs in 24 1/3 innings since then, including one in 10 postseason innings.
"I'm not doing anything different," Madson said. "I'm not trying any harder. I think it's just a combination of things. I'm not doing anything, just adrenaline and rest and all that combined."
He just seized his opportunity.
With a consistent mid-90s fastball, a biting changeup and a much-improved cut fastball that assists in retiring lefties, Madson has been as dominating as the closer.
"He's always had the tools," Lidge said. "One thing he's done so well this year is put together when to throw his pitches. Sometimes, you don't know when to finish guys off and when to throw the right pitches. He does an outstanding job and he knows how to dominate guys.
"It's exciting to see, and one of the biggest reasons I've done well this year, too. I know if we've got a one-run lead, all I have to do is get three guys out in the ninth, because he's got the eighth inning covered."
Lidge suggested that Madson has the talent and stuff to be a closer. Madson laughed at the thought of an entrance song.
"I wouldn't have one," he said. "I don't like it. I think it should stop. When the hitters come up, too. I would just like it quiet."
Which is fitting, since he's been silencing the opposition for a while.