Lidge temporarily removed from closer's role
HOUSTON -- Astros closer Brad Lidge will probably not be used in save situations for the next couple of games as he makes adjustments that manager Phil Garner hopes will be a remedy for his recent struggles.
Garner told Lidge of the decision Friday before Houston's game against the Colorado Rockies.
"I want to hopefully get this over with as soon as possible so I can get back to closing games," Lidge said before the game.
The right-hander pitched the seventh inning of Houston's 12-2 win Friday night and retired the side in order with one strikeout.
Lidge has had trouble locating his pitches this season and almost squandered a three-run lead in the ninth inning Thursday night before being replaced by Dan Wheeler with the bases loaded and two outs. Wheeler retired Kenny Lofton to preserve a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"What I want to try to do is give him a couple of outings here where he can work on some of the things that he and [pitching coach] Jim Hickey have been working on," Garner said. "And do it without thinking that the one pitch may cost him a ballgame if he doesn't get it where he wants to."
Garner said he will try to get Lidge in sometime after the sixth inning, but he might still be used in the ninth if he has to use his other pitchers early in a game.
Wheeler and Chad Qualls will likely fill in as closer during this stretch.
Astros general manager Tim Purpura said he thinks this was "somewhat of an obvious decision."
"Like everybody else on the club you have to produce and you have to execute," he said. "And there's been some times where Brad hasn't been able to do that.
"We've got some things that we have to work out and I have confidence that once he does that he'll be back and dominant like he always has been."
Lidge blew a save last week against Colorado, and in late April he gave up a grand slam to Nomar Garciaparra in a 6-2 loss to the Dodgers.
Lidge converted a franchise-record 24 saves in a row from June 21 to Sept. 28 last year, but has been dogged by questions about his mind-set since Albert Pujols' monster three-run homer that gave the St. Louis Cardinals a 5-4 win in Game 5 of the 2005 NL championship series.
Lidge has a 6.48 ERA and has given up 13 runs, 17 hits and 16 walks in 16 2-3 innings this season. He has 11 saves in 14 opportunities.
Garner maintains that Lidge's problem is not a mental one, but rather a matter of mechanics.
"He's flying open," Garner said. "What that means is when your front shoulder goes out too soon, your ball tends to flatten out. Fastballs don't have the same finish on them and more importantly your slider doesn't have the same break on it that it normally does. So that's been his major issue."
Garner said the decision was not an easy one nor one that he liked making, but it was necessary.
"I felt like it's appropriate to do it now," he said. "I didn't want to wait. The league has seen him now for three years and I think some people are making adjustments on him and he's trying to make the adjustments back.
"I'm betting that it's good for him and what's good for him will be in the short run very good for us, too, I think."
Garner made it clear that this is not a permanent move.
"He's still my closer," he said. "This is a move not to take him out of the closer role as it is to try to get him where I think he's right. He's not exactly pleased with the situation, but I feel certain he'll be OK."
Lidge switched to pitching from the stretch in spring training, but is going to return to a full windup.
"Hopefully, that will make it easier for me to get in a more comfortable rhythm," he said.
Lidge said he likes throwing under pressure, but that returning to a full windup when he's not under so much pressure could help him feel comfortable and have things "click again."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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