It seemed inevitable after Brad Lidge suffered through another tough weekend and blew a pair of saves, but now he's officially on the disabled list and can let his sprained right knee heal properly. I didn't have any inside information that the Phillies would place him on the shelf, but I mentioned in Relief Efforts last week that J.C. Romero's return to the Phillies after a 50-game suspension would be the impetus for giving Lidge rest. Now it has happened.
Fantasy owners shouldn't panic here. In fact, I would argue that this move makes Lidge a better buy-low option for the rest of the season than if he had tried to pitch through the knee pain and continued to struggle. It was obvious that he wasn't himself, as if the six blown saves and seven home runs allowed weren't enough of a hint. Lidge had seemed to have righted himself after blowing a pair of saves at Yankee Stadium a few weekends ago, including saving all three wins in a series sweep of the lowly Washington Nationals, but then the Dodgers touched him this past weekend. Lidge's ERA is 7.27. After a few weeks off, hopefully he can return to being the dominant closer who didn't blow any saves in all of 2008, including the Phillies' World Series run.
Ryan Madson becomes the team's closer for the next two weeks, and there's little reason to fear that Philly's top reliever this season won't do a good job. Madson has a 2.22 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 28 1/3 innings, with 31 strikeouts and nary a home run allowed. It is important to note, however, that Lidge isn't likely to need more than 15 days on the DL. Add Madson if you have the room, but this is not likely to become anything permanent, so don't go trading a key offensive player for what might be a short-term statistical edge. Some closers have gone on the DL this season and been out longer than expected -- Jose Valverde jumps to mind -- but Lidge really shouldn't be out more than the minimum time.
Madson could earn 10 saves during that span, for all we know, or he could get two or three. Or none. The Phillies face the rival Mets and tough Red Sox this week, then play four more series against American League East teams, so saves aren't assured. The point is, every save might matter in your league, and Madson should earn some. But I wouldn't bet on his getting saves during the final three months of the season. Lidge really should be OK.
The reason Romero's return from suspension was so critical here was that the Phillies really didn't have a replacement for Madson in the eighth inning. Now they do. Romero is not a left-handed specialist, though he does tend to dominate lefty hitters. In three appearances since coming back, Romero has tossed three innings without allowing an earned run and has picked up two holds. The eighth inning is now his for the next two weeks, and it's possible, though unlikely, that he'll pick up an occasional save.
This is a good move for the Phillies and, although it might not seem like it, fantasy owners stand to win as well. Keep Lidge on your bench, sign Madson for a few weeks and wait this out.