Brad Lidge returned from rotator cuff surgery in late July last season and found his old effectiveness because of his slider. He could throw it any count, because he could locate it anywhere he wanted to. “Right now, I’m not able to do that,” Lidge said.
The results, evidenced in today’s 3-2 Nationals win, have doomed Lidge. He blew a two-run in the ninth instantaneously, walking leadoff hitter Hanley Ramirez and then leaving up a fat fastball that Logan Morrison crushed into the upper deck right.
Lidge had put on the first two men he faced Tuesday in a tight-rope save, and he also blew a two-run, ninth-inning lead during the Nationals’ home opener. For the season, Lidge has walked seven and allowed seven hits in seven innings.
Still, Manager Davey Johnson plans to stick with him and Henry Rodriguez as co-closers until Drew Storen returns in midseason. Saturday, Rodriguez had thrown 25 pitches during a save Friday night, and so Johnson planned to go with Lidge all day
“I still like Brad Lidge,” Johnson said. “It’s too early. I’ve got a gameplan and I’m going to stay with it.”
And so, Lidge will work to find the command on his slider. His command allowed him last to make 72 percent of his pitches sliders, which left hitters chasing and flailing. This year has been a struggle for Lidge.
“Honestly, right now I’m not throwing well out there,” Lidge said. “My location’s bad. I’m able to get ahead of guys sometimes, but I’m not able to put them away with the slider I’ve been able to in the past. That was the case with Hanley. With Logan, to be honest, we threw a fastball and it was supposed to be in and he got on it. It’s a combination of not executing a lot and sometimes when I am, they’re doing a good job of hitting it. Especially with lefties, I’m not really fooling any lefties right now.”
Lidge, 35, averages 90 miles per hour with his fastball, five or six ticks slower than he reached at his peak. Without precise command on his slider, he said, he cannot amp up to get the right amount of bite on it, either. Effectively, he has become, at least for the past few outings, a closer without closer’s stuff.
My gameplan out there is just a little different right now, and I’m not able to execute the way I want to,” Lidge said. “But it’s still early enough in the season where if I work hard enough it’ll come around and I’ll be doing well here soon. But obviously right now it’s frustrating.
“I don’t want to make these guys play extra innings, and I don’t want to blow the game for [Stephen Strasburg], who threw great. I’m disappointed with myself. Right now I’m not happy with the way I’m throwing. But at the same time, I’ve played long enough to know it’ll get back to where it needs to get if I just keep working.”