11/05/09 7:29 PM EST
Lidge eyes 'a lot of improvement' in '10
Phils closer learns during tough year, vows to be stronger
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
It almost did.
He went 1-0 with an 0.00 ERA and three saves in five appearances against the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers in the first two rounds of the postseason after he went 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA, 31 saves and a Major League-leading 11 blown saves in the regular season. He looked dominant against the first two New York Yankees he faced in the top of the ninth inning in Game 4 of the World Series at Citizens Bank Park. But Johnny Damon turned a fantastic nine-pitch at-bat into a two-out single to left field and everything fell apart as Lidge allowed three runs in a 7-4 loss.
"Come on, man, no," said Lidge, asked Wednesday after Game 6 if he still had Game 4's loss on his mind. "They're a great team."
Lidge acknowledged he could use a break after a trying season, but he also sounded like he is eager for a fresh start.
"Without a doubt, after something like this is over, you go home and unwind a little bit, but somewhere definitely after New Year's, the juices get going and you want to get back out there and do everything you can do to get yourself ready to have a great season in 2010," Lidge said. "Baseball is always a learning experience. That's the whole point of the game. Good years. Bad years. Figure out what you need to do to be better the next year.
"That's why we play this game. It's never easy. If you play long enough, you're going to have bad years. If you play long enough, you're going to have good years. If things didn't go great, why? Are you healthy?"
Lidge suffered from inflammation in his right knee this season, which put him on the disabled list in June. It affected him the first couple months of the season and his mechanics suffered as he tried to pitch through it.
Lidge said he will not require surgery.
The struggles must have hurt his confidence, although he maintained he felt confident throughout the season.
But there is no question that the Phillies need an improved Lidge in 2010. He went 2-0 with a 1.95 ERA and 41 saves in 41 opportunities in 2008. He doesn't have to be perfect again, but he does need to be much more consistent. His struggles created instability in the bullpen, as right-hander Ryan Madson had to leave his setup role to close on occasion.
The closer is the bullpen's anchor. Lidge needs to be that guy again.
As he said, "2010 will be a year for me where I'll be really ready for a lot of improvement in a lot of things. I think I was fortunate not to require any surgery on my knee this year. I will take measures to make sure it's a lot stronger next year and not get derailed early in the season like I did this year. But sometimes you learn more about yourself when you're not having a great year than when things are going great like in 2008. You learn what kind of pain you can tolerate, what kind of things you can go through. Like I said, I really feel like this was a good year for me to learn more about myself and about the craft of closing as well."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.