An interesting subplot unfolded in the late innings of the Phillies 5-4 loss to San Diego on Monday.
Actually there were a couple of them, and they both entered through the bullpen door.
One hundred and one games into the season, Brad Lidge finally pitched for the Phillies. The erstwhile closer threw 11 pitches in navigating a 1-2-3 seventh inning. If he continues that level of efficiency, the Phillies will have added a nice piece to their bullpen for the stretch drive and beyond.
As encouraging as Lidges performance was, team officials are still considering beefing up the relief corps for this season and next.
Thats why the eighth inning was so interesting Monday.
Moments after Lidges perfect seventh inning, San Diego right-hander Mike Adams entered the game through the same bullpen door and pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the Padres. Adams struck out Chase Utley and Ryan Howard both looking and unhappy with umpire Rob Drake then retired Raul Ibanez with the potential tying run at third in helping protect a one-run lead for the Padres.
Adams was an interesting side note because Phillies officials covet him and, according to sources, still havent given up trying to acquire him before Sundays non-waiver trade deadline. Even adding a healthy and effective Lidge to the late-innings team of Antonio Bastardo, Mike Stutes and Ryan Madson might not stop Phils officials from continuing their pursuit of Adams. Madson will be a free agent at seasons end, and Adams, who is under control for 2012, could be a possible replacement at closer. In other words, hed help now and in the future, and thats always been the Phillies style when pondering and making deals.
Of course, the Phils are still looking for a right-handed hitter, as well, and theres a chance they could use their trade chips filling that need.
Whatever the case, Adams is still on the Phils radar screen, and he was impressive on the Citizens Bank Park mound on Monday.
So was Lidge. And the fans let him know it. The 176th consecutive sellout crowd saluted himwelcomed him back with a loud ovation as he left the mound in the seventh inning.
The ovation was great. I definitely noticed it, said Lidge, who missed the first 100 games with shoulder and elbow injuries. These fans have meant so much to me and my career. It was a great feeling. Something Ill always remember.
Lidge threw nine sliders and two fastballs. The fastballs registered 89 and 90 mph, hardly high octane, but right about where Lidge was in the second half of last season. He pitched effectively at that velocity because he located well and had good downward action on his slider. The slider was good Monday so catcher Carlos Ruiz kept riding it.
Health-wise, I feel really good, Lidge said. I have a little ways to go with my fastball. I still think theres another click or two of velocity in there that will happen real soon.
Lidge, who is unlikely to be re-signed after this season, understands he may never close for the Phils again. Thats OK. He just wants to contribute.
My biggest goal isnt necessarily what role I pitch in, its to pitch in a lot of games, he said. I just want Charlie to be able to depend on me.
After Lidge departed, the Phils received two innings of scoreless relief from Mike Stutes. In the end, however, three shutout innings from the bullpen werent enough to extricate the Phils from the early hole dug by starter Cliff Lee.
Lee does not have overpowering stuff, so when he leaves balls over the middle of the plate he is susceptible to getting his fanny kicked. The lefty threw too many good strikes, and made a very costly mental error, in falling to 9-7.
It was just one of those days, manager Charlie Manuel said. I felt like they were hitting him pretty good. His stuff was good, but he had problems with his command.
Lee allowed 10 hits and five runs over four innings. He wasnt happy about being removed for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fourth inning Ben Francisco grounded into a double play but Manuel wanted to try to get something going offensively.
Im never going to be happy throwing just four innings, Lee said. But its Manuels job and he makes the call. There was nothing I could do about it. I was told theyre pinch-hitting and that was it.
Lee didnt help his cause with a mental mistake in the second inning. With runners on the corners, he threw a soft pickoff to first base. Chris Denorfia, the runner on third, saw the lazy throw and stole home as the Padres rallied for four runs in the inning.
Lee took blame for that play.
I learned from it, Lee said. I cant allow that to happen. I didnt even consider the runner stealing home as a possibility. Next time, I need to be more firm in my throws to first.
A difficult start by Lee was made all that much easier to swallow by this: The Phillies took three of four from the Padres and have won nine straight series. On top of it all, Lidge made a nice showing for the first time out.
A week before the trade deadline, the Phils have the best record in the majors, but management does not want to stand pat. It is still trying to get a right-handed bat and that guy who pitched the eighth inning for San Diego is on the wish list, too.
E-mail Jim Salisbury at email@example.com