Utley, Lidge to represent Phils in Bronx
Philly second baseman led all National League players in voting
PHILADELPHIA -- Brad Lidge's resurgent year got even better Sunday.He signed the largest contract of his life in the morning -- one that will pay him $37.5 million for the next three years -- and by mid-afternoon, he learned his brilliant first half as the Phillies' closer earned him a second All-Star appearance. And his wife, Lindsay, is 4 1/2 months pregnant with the couple's second child. Not too shabby.
"I didn't put any goals on what I wanted to do this year, but I felt this was going to be a good year for me," Lidge said. "I felt that coming in. I hope to keep pitching this way through the season and the postseason."But first the All-Star Game. Lidge and second baseman Chase Utley earned their respective spots for the July 15 All-Star Game in different ways. Utley blazed through the fan voting as the NL's leading vote-getter, making his participation a formality. Since the day fans began casting ballots, Utley was the NL's most clicked name, at 3,889,602 times. He edged out the Brewers' Ryan Braun for the most NL votes, and would've had the most overall if not for a late surge by the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez. "I never thought that would happen," Utley said. "The fans in Philadelphia have always supported me, and I appreciate that. I've never been to Yankee Stadium, so I'm excited to see it. I'm going to try and enjoy it." Utley knew he couldn't make alternate plans for the break after he destroyed the second-base field. The powerful second baseman has led the Phils' offense all season, with a Major League-leading 24 homers through Sunday. He may show off his compact stroke on a national stage, should he participate in the State Farm Home Run Derby. He approached catching instructor Mick Billmeyer about pitching to him, a job that will likely be accepted. "Maybe," Utley said, when asked whether he'd participate. "It's a possibility, put it that way. Nothing is set in stone." He's not concerned that it would mess up his swing, a popular theory of some participants. "I don't think there's too much to that," he said. "It's just one day of batting practice. I have plenty of bad batting practice." Lidge topped the players' ballot among relievers, meaning his dominance was recognized by his peers. "I feel like I'm at the top of my game, and I've learned a lot," Lidge said. "The experiences I've had have definitely helped me get to where I'm at. I'm not really trying to compare it to years I've had in Houston, but I know how I felt then and how I feel now. I feel as good as ever." Utley and Lidge could be joined by Pat Burrell, if he holds off four contenders to capture the Monster 2008 All-Star Final Vote. The 79th Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be televised by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and Sportsnet HD and televised around the world by Major League Baseball International, with pregame ceremonies beginning at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN Radio will provide exclusive national radio coverage, while MLB.com will provide extensive online coverage. XM will provide satellite radio play-by-play coverage of the XM All-Star Futures Game. Utley is making his third All-Star appearance. With four at-bats, he has one hit, a single off Kenny Rogers in 2006. Lidge returns to the Midsummer Classic for the first time since '05, when he was with the Astros. He has a fond memory of pitching in Yankee Stadium. On July 11, 2003, he tossed the sixth and seventh innings of a six-pitcher combined no-hitter. After arriving in a five-player November trade, the right-hander has reestablished himself as one of baseball's elite closers. He and the Yankees' Mariano Rivera are the only full-time stoppers to nail down all of their save opportunities. Through Sunday, Lidge is 19-for-19 with a 1.00 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 36 innings. His first All-Star appearance in '05 was memorable. He relieved Dontrelle Willis in the seventh and struck out Melvin Mora, Mike Sweeney and Garrett Anderson. "That was an adrenaline-filled experience and a lot of fun," Lidge said. "Hopefully, I'll get a chance to pitch again, and hopefully, get the same result. That's a memory I'll never forget and that was a pretty awesome experience." Lidge's goal is the same goal as Utley, to enjoy it more. "The first time, your head's on a swivel and you go through everything as fast as you can," Lidge said. "This time, I'm really going to suck it in and appreciate the little things that you miss the first time."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.