The Washington Nationals signed 35-year-old, 10-year veteran right-handed reliever Brad Lidge to what is reportedly a one-year/$1M dollar deal in late January. Lidge brings with him a resume that includes 223 career saves, 789 career K's (11.95 K/9), 276 career walks (4.18 BB/9), a 3.44 ERA and a 3.23 FIP in 592 G and 594.0 IP. The Houston Astros, who drafted Lidge, dealt the reliever to Philadelphia along with infielder Eric Bruntlett in a November '07 deal that brought infielder Mike Costanzo, outfielder Michael Bourn and RHP Geoff Geary back to Houston. Lidge recorded 100 saves for the Phillies over the next four seasons, striking out 228 batters (10.63 K/9) in 193.0 IP for Philadelphia over the four years he was in their bullpen, but a strained right posterior rotator cuff limited Lidge to just 25 appearances and 19.1 IP in 2011 over which he did, however, have a 1.40 ERA, 2.82 FIP, 13 walks (6.05 BB/9) and 23 K's (10.71 K/9).
D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told ESPN980's The Sports Fix's Thom Loverro and Kevin Sheehan that he thought Lidge was, "... a guy that brings us a vast amount of knowledge about how to pitch back-ends of the game," and would, "be a wealth of information," for the relievers he'll be joining in the bullpen like Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Henry Rodriguez and Ryan Mattheus. "He still has swing and miss stuff, "Rizzo said, "His slider is still a big-time swing and miss pitch. His velocity is down from his formidable years, but he's still a big ground ball guy."
Lidge told MLB Network Radio's Inside Pitch hosts Jim Bowden and Casey Stern in an interview this afternoon that he believes the velocity will be back, but he's also made some adjustments since he's changed as a pitcher as he's gotten older...
"In terms of my stuff," Lidge said, "There's no question, I've had eight surgeries in my career, so you get to a certain point where you throw a ton early in your career and as you keep going, your stuff's probably not going to be quite the same when you get into your mid-30's. I just turned 35, so for me I had to make an adjustment the last couple of years and realize that I'm not going to rush my fastball by as many guys as I used to.
"So, I have gone to my slider more often," the 6'5'', 215 lb pitcher explained, "but it's actually become a pitch for me that I've been able to tinker with quite a bit and throw a couple variations of, one, guys tell me looks like more of a split-finger fastball, and there's a traditional slider and then there's kind of a backdoor slider and there's a few different ways I can throw it so it's become kind of a multitude of pitches for me. All that being said, I still like to rear back and throw my fastball, I just have to be a little more selective of when I'm going to do it and make sure that I locate it a little better than I used to."
As for passing his knowledge on to Nat's closer Drew Storen and the other pitches in the Nationals' pen, Lidge said it was something he looked forward to this Spring. "When I got to the big leagues," with the Astros, the right-hander recalled, "Billy Wagner was already there in Houston and he had probably already had about seven or eight successful years closing, and I kind of looked at him, he was a great mentor for me, and I remember thinking hopefully I'd be lucky to one day look back and have enough saves under my belt where a young closer would want my advice or talk to me as well."
Storen told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Memolo and Jeff Nelson in an interview this week that he was looking forward to learning from the veteran this Spring. "Having Brad Lidge down there with me," Storen said, "is going to be a big help and probably help me with my approach and how to approach hitters." Lidge too said that's the sort of information he's eager to discuss. "He's already had an outstanding season in the ninth inning," Lidge said today, "And it will be real interesting to see what his mindset is right now and of course, I have no problem and I'm actually looking forward to loaning him my insight on not just closing as a whole, but also individual hitters and how he approaches things and what he's thinking when he's out there."
In explaining how he ended up signing in Washington, the veteran reliever explained that it was actually tough to leave Philadelphia. The Phillies originally told him the door was open for a return, but Lidge decided to look around for a closing job somewhere else in the league and when he didn't find one, he found that the opportunity in Philly was no longer there. "I came back to the Phils," Lidge explained, "And at that point they didn't have a spot left for me. They changed their mind, that can happen in this business, so at that point I went looking for the best spot for me."
"I was preferring to get to a team that I felt was either a playoff caliber team or a team that was on the brink," Lidge said, "And when we talked to the Nationals it became a real good fit," for both the pitcher and his family. "After talking to Jayson Werth for a while, I really like the way the team is going. I think that they have a chance of getting to the playoffs this year and it's going to be an exciting year there."