Brad Lidge knew it was coming. The veteran right-hander approached Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo in the clubhouse Sunday morning to ask if he was ready to talk. Rizzo delivered the news that Lidge least wanted to hear, but expected.
The Nationals designated Lidge for assignment on Sunday, activating Ryan Mattheus from the disabled list to take his place and effectively cutting ties with the 35-year-old former Philadelphia Phillies World Series hero.
“The 14-inning game last night forced us to make a bullpen roster move,” Rizzo said. “Brad wasn’t performing very well, and Mattheus was ready to come off the rehab assignment. We thought this was the right time to make the move.”
In Saturday’s 14-inning loss to the New York Yankees, Lidge allowed two runs on three hits and an intentional walk, the defining runs in the 5-3 decision.
“It’s frustrating,” Lidge said after Saturday’s game. “I’m making some good pitches and they’re not hitting them well. They’re just finding spots where, a lot of times, they’re not even getting to the outfield. They’re infield hits. It is frustrating when something like that happens, but you just try to grind through it.
“Just keep throwing good pitches, quality pitches and at some point those balls will get to people and we’ll make outs. But until then, you’ve just got to battle and keep throwing strikes.”
The Nationals signed Lidge to a one-year, $1 million deal in late January after it became clear to Lidge that the Phillies were no longer interested in his services. He was expected to bring not only the veteran presence and leadership that the Nationals‘ youthful bullpen had been lacking, but also his slider. The Nationals planned for him to serve in a setup role with Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen locking things down at the end of games.
But Storen went down with a bone chip in his right elbow in spring training, and that forced Lidge and Henry Rodriguez into temporary roles as dual closers. Lidge developed a sports hernia in late April and missed 38 after surgery to repair it. Before he went on the disabled list, Lidge blew two saves and had a 5.14 ERA.
The Nationals activated Lidge on June 7, a surprise even to him as he was expecting to make at least one more rehab appearance. Lidge made four appearances after coming off the DL, threw 2 1/3 innings, faced 16 batters, and allowed six earned runs off five hits and four walks (two intentional), and opponents had a .455 average against him.
“I think he was healthy,” Rizzo said. “He said he was healthy; he threw like he was healthy. No pain, no after-effects after he was done rehabbing.”
“After his performance (Saturday), he told me he felt there would be some kind of move in the bullpen. He said he was disappointed in the way he pitched. Sorry it didn’t turn out better.”
Mattheus had been on the disabled list since May 22 with a partial tear in the plantar fascia of his left foot.
The Nationals bullpen will remain in flux as Henry Rodriguez (right index finger strain) is nearing a rehab assignment. He is expected to go to Triple-A Syracuse to begin that assignment in the next few days.