WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 21: Brad Lidge #54 of the Washington Nationals walks off the field after the top of the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins at Nationals Park on April 21, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Lost in all the excitement surrounding Washington Nationals' prospects Bryce Harper and Tyler Moore making their major league debuts this weekend was the news that 35-year-old Nats' reliever Brad Lidge was placed on the 15-Day DL with what was described last week as an "adominal wall strain." Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) reported on Twitter at the time that Lidge, "... will see a specialist in Philly on Monday (today) about his ab strain. He's frustrated." According to the WaPost's Nats beat writer's update tonight, the right-hander is now headed for surgery:
Brad Lidge will have surgery tomorrow to repair a hernia, per agent Rex Gary. He should be able to start throwing again in 3 weeks.— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) May 1, 2012
With Drew Storen sidelined and recovering from surgery to remove a bone fragment from his elbow, Lidge and Henry Rodriguez had been sharing the closer's duties so far this season, but Lidge struggled before going on the DL, posting a 5.14 ERA, 5.75 FIP, seven walks (9.00 BB/9) and seven K's (9.00 BB/9) in seven innings pitched. Right-hander Ryan Perry was called up to take Lidge's spot on the roster. Perry, 25, was acquired from Detroit this winter in a trade that sent RHP Collin Balester to the Tigers. The 6'4'' right-hander has pitched in seven games so far this season at Triple-A Syracuse with two saves, a 2.25 ERA, 2.83 FIP, four walks (4.50 BB/9) and nine K's (10.13 K/9) in 8.0 IP.
Though Henry Rodriguez blew a save opportunity this weekend in LA, he'll likely remain in the closer's role. Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told ESPN980's Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro in an interview this afternoon that he still has confidence in the 25-year-old right-hander's abilities. "I've got all the confidence in the world in Henry Rodriguez," the Nationals' general manager said, "He's five out of six and you look around the league and that's pretty darn good as far as closers are concerned." In 10 games and 9.0 IP thus far, Rodriguez has five saves, a 2.00 ERA, 2.28 FIP, six walks (6.00 BB/9) and 13 K's (12.00 K/9) with just one wild pitch before Saturday night's outing.
The WaPost's Mr. Kilgore's colleague, Thomas Boswell, wrote this afternoon in a chat with readers that he's been impressed with the speed of the right-hander's development and thought this weekend's blown save, which saw the reliever uncork three wild pitches and give up three hits and two runs in two-thirds of an inning of work, was just an instance of Rodriguez's nerves getting the best of him:
"Henry Rodriguez __way ahead of schedule. Mine anyway. I've watched every flamethrower from Mesa to Benitez to Gossage to I-don't-know-how-many. In an amazing game where he felt responsibility not to screw up Strasburg's win and Harper's debut, he got really nervous and lost control. So what? He needs all those steps (and failures). You're looking for pieces for an eventual October team. You want them stressed to the cracking point __many times__ so that their acceptable stress load becomes higher and higher."
Learn your lessons now so that when the Nationals are hopefully playing meaningful games in September with (again hopefully) Drew Storen, Michael Morse, Ryan Zimmerman, Lidge if he still has it when he returns, and a mature Bryce Harper competing for a postseason berth, you're ready for that sort of environment and better able to deal with the stress that accompanies such situations. Unfortunately for the Nationals' young flamethrower, with Storen and now Lidge on the DL, he's going to be thrown into the late-inning fire ready or not.