Brad Lidge retires a Phillie, reflects on memories

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Brad Lidge retires a Phillie, reflects on memories

The memory is still clear as can be for Brad Lidge.

From the grip he had on the baseball, to the screaming pile of players on top of him and Carlos Ruiz, the final pitch (and its subsequent result) of the 2008 World Series remains a vivid series of events to Lidge.

And even though he said it’s a feeling that’s “indescribable,” he did his best to recall that moment when he formally retired as a Phillie during a press conference Thursday at Citizens Bank Park.

“Chooch and I, we actually had the chance to talk a few days ago. We were saying when we were at the bottom of that pile neither of us could really breath, our faces were pushed next to each other, but we were still screaming,” Lidge said with a smile on his face.

“It was just that feeling, it didn't matter if the weight of the world was on you or whatever, but it felt like no one was on you at that point.”

That pitch to strike out the Rays' Eric Hinske is still etched into the minds of Phillies fans, but for good measure it was brought back to light prior to the team's Thursday night game against the Giants.

After the pitch was shown on the jumbotron, Lidge, welcomed by a roaring applause and standing ovation, walked from the bullpen to the mound and tossed out the first pitch to, none other than, Carlos Ruiz.

But it was more than just one moment or one pitch that brought Lidge back to Philly to retire.

He could have retired with the Astros and Lidge would have a solid case to back it up.

Lidge was drafted by Houston in the 1998 draft and spent five full seasons with the Astros after working through the club’s minor-league system.

But Lidge said the memories made over four years in Philly outweighed his longer stay in Houston, presenting him a simple decision on where to retire.

“Even though I did spend a little more time in Houston, this organization, what we accomplished in 2008 and the people here are so first-class that this decision became pretty easy for me,” Lidge said.

Those experiences included a perfect 2008 season for Lidge, converting 48 saves in 48 save opportunities both in the regular season and postseason. Coming off a torn meniscus he suffered that spring training, Lidge earned the MLB Comeback Player of the Year award and was eighth in NL MVP voting.

But one of Lidge’s fondest reflections on that 2008 campaign was the collective effort put forth by the Phillies.

Lidge said it helped staying in the present every time he took the hill, but it was the backing of his teammates that propelled him and the team through the season.

“There was nobody in the clubhouse who felt they were outside of or above anybody else,” the Sacramento native said. “On that team there were so many All-Stars, but everybody was playing together. The clubhouse was so tight that year it was incredible.”

Sitting next to Lidge at the press conference was current Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who doled out high praises of his former closer from both a front-office and fan perspective.

“What he did in 2008 was historical for our franchise [and] historical for our city. It was probably one of the greatest moments I've ever been around as a person who's been involved in athletics for a long, long time,” Amaro said. “As a fan and as an assistant GM that year, it was a very, very proud moment.”

Lidge didn’t fail to mention the connection he had with the city of Philadelphia during his time here.

The 36-year-old, dwelling on the aura of closing games in front of Phillies crowds, said the supporting fans were with him and behind him when the ninth inning rolled around.

“The ninth inning kind of makes people feel alive a little bit. ... You're going through it as a player, but the fans are going through it,” Lidge said. “They're kind of going through it with me. That kind of creates a bond there that's maybe different than other positions.”

MLB Notes: Aroldis Chapman rejoins Yankees on 5-year, $86 million deal

MLB Notes: Aroldis Chapman rejoins Yankees on 5-year, $86 million deal

OXON HILL, Md. -- Aroldis Chapman found a spot in a most familiar bullpen -- a very rich spot, too.

The hard-throwing closer reached agreement to return to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night with the highest-priced contract ever for a relief pitcher, an $86 million deal for five years.

A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the contract was pending a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet complete.

Once it's done, the 28-year-old lefty whose fastballs routinely top 100 mph would shatter the previous richest contract for a reliever -- that was the $62 million, four-year deal Mark Melancon signed with San Francisco just a couple days ago during the winter meetings.

Chapman was acquired by New York from the Cincinnati Reds last offseason, then missed the first 29 games of the season due to a domestic violence suspension from Major League Baseball. The Cuban was traded to the Chicago Cubs in late July and helped them win the World Series, becoming a free agent when it was over.

Chapman went 4-1 with 36 saves and a 1.55 ERA in a combined 59 games for the Yankees and Cubs. He struggled some in the postseason as the Cubs beat Cleveland for their first championship since 1908.

With the Yankees this season, Chapman teamed with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances in one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball history. Miller was later traded to Cleveland, but Betances is still with New York.

Earlier this week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team was interested in both Chapman and fellow free agent closer Kenley Jansen. The Yankees had already made one deal at these meetings, signing slugger Matt Holliday, before paying a lot more to bring Chapman back to the Bronx.

Fox Sports first reported the agreement.

Rangers: Gomez reaches deal to stay with team
OXON HILL, Md. -- Carlos Gomez is staying with the Texas Rangers.

The outfielder agreed to an $11.5 million, one-year contract, a deal subject to a successful physical.

"Many of the objectives of the Rangers for Carlos go beyond one year," his agent, Scott Boras, said Wednesday. "Certainly Carlos really enjoyed the team and the environment and feels he's got a great chance to win. So I think both parties' objectives were met by that deal."

Gomez, who turned 31 last weekend, figures to play center as general manager Jon Daniels structured an outfield that includes Shin-Soo Choo in right and Nomar Mazara in left. Ian Desmond left Wednesday for a $70 million, five-year deal with Colorado.

Gomez batted just .210 with five homers in 85 games this year for Houston and was released by the Astros in August. He signed with Texas and hit .284 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 33 games. An All-Star in 2013 and '14 with Milwaukee, Gomez has a .257 average and 116 home runs in 10 big league seasons.

"J.D. was very clear from the onset about them wanting Carlos back, and we've had communication since the season's end to pursue that," Boras said. "So it was something in our minds and in their minds. It was just a constant dialogue."

AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.

Red Sox: Sale not worried about being ace
BOSTON -- New Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale says he isn't worried that he might not be the ace of the pitching staff after being traded from the White Sox to Boston.

The 27-year-old lefty told reporters on Wednesday, "We play for a trophy, not a tag."

Sale was traded to the Red Sox on Tuesday at the baseball winter meetings. He was the top starting pitcher on the market, and the Red Sox gave up touted prospect Yoan Moncada as part of a package to land him.

Sale has been an All-Star for five straight seasons and finished in the top six of the Cy Young Award voting each time. He joins a staff that already includes 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and '12 winner David Price (see full story).

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies have a history of adding players in the Rule 5 draft. The annual event, designed to prevent teams from stockpiling minor-league talent without giving it a shot in the majors, has netted the Phillies players such as Dave Hollins, Shane Victorino and Odubel Herrera over the years.

The year’s Rule 5 draft will be held Thursday morning at the conclusion of the winter meetings, but it’s highly unlikely that the Phillies will be active. After adding 11 prospects to their 40-man roster two weeks ago, the Phillies are simply out of room. Selecting a player in the Rule 5 draft would first require the Phils to cut a player loose and that did not seem to be the plan as the sun set Wednesday.

While an addition is unlikely, there’s a strong possibility that the Phils will lose a player or two in the draft. Outfielder Andrew Pullin, a 2012 draft pick, is the likeliest to go. He hit .322 with a .885 OPS between Single A and Double A in 2016 and a number of teams are buzzing about him. A late-season elbow injury prevented Pullin from playing in the Arizona Fall League and factored into the Phillies’ decision to leave him unprotected.

If a team rolls the dice on Pullin, it must keep him in the majors all season or offer him back to the Phillies.

Other players who could go include first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi, outfielder Carlos Tocci and pitchers Miguel Nunez and Hoby Milner.

All quiet for now
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak spent Wednesday meeting with agents and representatives from other clubs.

“Nothing is hot at the moment,” he said late in the day.

Klentak has brought back starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, added relievers Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek and traded for outfielder Howie Kendrick this offseason. The biggest remaining issue/question on his plate is whether to add a veteran hitter in a corner outfield spot or keep the pathway open for young players such as Roman Quinn and eventually Dylan Cozens and Nick Williams. 

“Successfully balancing the present and the future is the single greatest challenge that a baseball operations department faces,” Klentak said. “We’ve talked about it all offseason. The decisions that we are making right now about giving playing time to a young player that has cut his teeth in Triple A and needs that opportunity to take the next step as opposed to a shorter-term solution from the outside — that’s one of the main challenges that we’ve run into this offseason.”

While it’s uncertain whether the Phils will add a hitter, they most surely will make other roster tweaks as the winter moves on. They are likely to fill their backup catcher’s spot in-house (see story), but could add a utility infielder and more bullpen depth on minor-league contracts.

“I think there will probably be another move or two before we get to Clearwater,” Klentak said. “Who and when remains to be seen.”