Lidge feeling better with each passing day
Phillies closer throws first batting-practice session of spring
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Brad Lidge stretched with his Phillies teammates on Wednesday. When he was done, he walked over to a nearby field to throw batting practice for the first time this spring. Then Lidge switched fields and participated in a sequence of fielding drills.
"That's a full day," he said afterward. "I actually felt like I was in Spring Training today."
No longer did Lidge have to stand off to the side, limited in one aspect or another after offseason knee and elbow surgeries. On Wednesday, Philadelphia's closer was the same as everyone else, just another player working into shape.
On Monday, Lidge will feel even more complete, pitching in a game for the first time this spring. Though he's not sure if he will participate in the Phillies' Grapefruit League contest against the Pirates or a Minor League game that day, Lidge does know he will pitch.
And that's what's important.
"Each time I've gone out there, it's felt better and better," Lidge said. "My control is not too bad right now."
Wednesday's batting-practice session included 21 pitches to Minor Leaguers Wilson Valdez and Chris Duffy. Combined, they swung three times, with two foul balls and a whiff.
More important for Lidge, however, was his ability to control his fastball and slider in the zone. Lidge said that he actually feels more in control of his pitches this spring, because his recovery from surgery has forced him to focus on that.
Soon, he will naturally begin to develop the arm speed necessary to throw in the 90s again. And then the challenge becomes maintaining his control as the velocity increases.
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"When the arm speed comes around, everything gets a little crisper," Lidge said. "But that will happen. That's just a matter of pitching, getting out there as much as possible."
Every step forward is also a step toward Opening Day. Lidge isn't sure if he'll be ready to pitch in the Phillies' opener in Washington on April 5, but he does know he'll at least be close.
"It's really a question right now of how fast things come," Lidge said. "There is enough time, but coming off knee surgery and elbow surgery, I'm not sure my body is going to get there as fast as that time. But I would say there's definitely a possibility. You can't rule it out, for sure."
At the start of Spring Training, Lidge estimated that he was two weeks behind the rest of the pitchers in camp. Now halfway through, he feels that he has shaved about a week off that discrepancy.
If he can shave off another week between now and Opening Day, Lidge will be ready to go. If not, he's confident that he won't have to miss more than a few regular-season games.
"I feel pretty optimistic that it wouldn't be more than a week," Lidge said. "I think we're all kind of thinking that's pretty close to right."
In the meantime, Lidge will continue to stretch, continue to pitch and continue to field -- he will, in essence, continue to have full days. The next three and a half weeks will be spent developing arm strength and -- as long as his knee holds up -- taking fielding practice every day.
And the result, Lidge hopes, will be an improvement upon his worst and most frustrating season as a pro.
"As a pitcher last year, as a complete pitcher, I really felt way off," Lidge said, explaining that he feels that taking consistent fielding practice this spring will help. "I didn't feel mobile or agile on the mound at all. There were a lot of things that were frustrating last year."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.