Notes: Garner has faith in Lidge
Former closer hopes to impress manager, regain role
PHILADELPHIA -- Astros manager Phil Garner has said it was a matter of karma -- bad karma -- that had something to do with his decision on Monday to replace Brad Lidge with Dan Wheeler as the Astros' closer.But Garner wanted it known he has never lost confidence in Lidge. Friday night's 9-6 victory allowed Garner to use Lidge in the sixth inning, and the right-hander was superb. He struck out one in his one scoreless inning of work. More importantly, he got some work in. "I never said Lidge can't return to the closer's role, but my goal right now is to try and get him as much work as possible, get him back to feeling like himself, where he feels he's invincible again," Garner said. "I've been saying it's a little bit of bad karma with Brad. But I thought Friday's game was a great step for him.
"We were throwing the ball all over the place at one point there, and Brad came in and stopped anything further from happening. He stepped on them. That's the Brad Lidge I want to see -- seeing him like that, seeing him step on teams like he used to. That was very encouraging. I do have confidence in him. I just want him to get his scheme back down. I want him to get his mechanics back down."Lidge liked how he felt and he said nothing has changed. He'll prepare the same way that he has always prepared. In some ways, Lidge felt in a familiar role on Friday. "I had to pitch good and maintain a lead to help us secure a win, it's pretty much the same as I used to do it," said Lidge, whose ERA was 10.13 entering Saturday's game. "Knowing I have the confidence of the team is important to me. This [bullpen] is a group that's been together for a long time. I have in confidence in myself, I always have. [With] a few good outings, I'll be brimming with confidence." But that wavers when Lidge is asked about how Garner feels about him. "I hope I can get his confidence back in me," Lidge said. "The bottom line is that I have to pitch well. There's no other way around it. I pitch well and I place them in a position where they have to look at me again as the closer." This situation has placed Wheeler in an interesting spot. He notched his second save of the season on Friday against the Phillies, striking out the side. He's just concerning himself with every time Garner puts the ball in his hands. "As The Astros Closer Turns" is a soap opera he'll pass on. "I like this role," Wheeler said. "As a relief pitcher, being a closer is the premier job, and a job I'm grateful for. The only difference is that I'm coming in an inning earlier. I think the closer's job is just as important as the setup man's. There was one point in my career when I didn't think I'd even get this chance. It's my time to make the most of this. The other stuff I can't concern myself with." Jennings update: Results of a physical exam by Astros team physicians and an MRI on Saturday on Astros righty Jason Jennings confirmed the original diagnosis of right elbow flexor tendinitis. The exam revealed no ligament damage in the elbow, after Astros team physicians Dr. David Lintner and Dr. Thomas Mehlhoff performed an MRI.
Jennings will begin a program of rest, treatmen, and medication and is expected to miss at least two to three starts, at which point he will be re-evaluated. The Astros will place Jennings on the disabled list next week.
"That's probably good news," Garner said. "He'll take some medication, but tendinitis is far better than ligament damage. We're not pushed yet to make a move, so we'll see what happens. We're not in need of anything, the staff is OK."
"I think we're in OK shape from a pitching point of view," Houston general manager Tim Purpura said. "We can always use Brian Moehler in a spot start out of the bullpen, since we used him as a starter this spring."
Garner said he could move everyone up in his rotation, starting Chris Sampson on Monday and going to Roy Oswalt on Tuesday against Florida.
Biggio's big numbers: Craig Biggio took sole possession of eighth place all-time in doubles in Major League history Friday night with his sixth-inning double. The double was Biggio's 641st, propelling him past Honus Wagner on the all-time list.Biggio's 2,940 career hits, including a third-inning RBI single on Saturday, have him 60 shy of becoming the 27th player in Major League history to reach the 3,000-hit plateau. He's four hits away from passing Frank Robinson (2,943 hits) for 30th all-time in hits. "You're talking about Hall of Famers there, but as an active player, I just have to consider what I'm doing every day," said Biggio, a strong candidate one day for the Hall of Fame himself. "The numbers and hearing some of the names like Wagner, [Hank] Aaron, Robinson, are good. But it is a little crazy, no doubt about it. This year and last year, I've been associated with a lot of great names, and it's genuinely humbling. I just have to keep my focus as an active everyday player on doing my part to help us win and not make a big deal out of it." Coming up: The Astros close out the series with the Phillies on Sunday at 12:35 p.m. CT, but there is concern that the game might get postponed due to a storm heading to the area. The Astros and Phillies have a mutual open date on April 23. Houston has to travel to Pittsburgh, while the Phillies will be at home.
If Sunday's game is played, lefty Wandy Rodriguez is scheduled to start against Phillies righty Freddy Garcia, who would make his first start this season.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.