After rough start, Lidge no longer Houston's closer

Updated: April 10, 2007, 3:13 PM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- One week into the season, the Houston Astros have a new closer.

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Brad Ausmus
Appearing on GameNight on ESPN Radio, Astros catcher Brad Ausmus explained the flaw in Brad Lidge's mechanics that is causing him to struggle out of Houston's bullpen.

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Brad Lidge was demoted Monday in favor of Dan Wheeler, a move made one day after Lidge gave up five runs in two-thirds of an inning against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Wheeler made the most of his first opportunity, throwing a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his first save in Houston's 5-3 win over the Cubs

Lidge has saved 29 or more games in each of the last three seasons for Houston but had a 16.20 ERA and a blown save entering Monday's game against the Chicago Cubs. The Astros started the season with five losses in six games.

"I wrestled with this all of yesterday," manager Phil Garner said. "I feel that I have to make this move for the benefit of the team. In the situation that we are in right now, we can't afford to lose any more ballgames late."

Lidge was 1-5 with a 5.28 ERA and 32 saves in 38 chances last year.

"It was surprising, but not totally unjustified," he said. "I understand that it's about results. Right now, my first two outings haven't been there."

Lidge will be used in middle relief, and Garner left open the possibility Lidge could regain his job as closer.

"I don't know how much time this will take," Garner said. "It may be that he throws three or four times and gets thrust back into the closing role."

Wheeler is now 0-1 with one save and a 6.00 ERA in three games.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press