Lidge, returning from two surgeries, throws off mound

Brad Lidge’s first bullpen session of the spring drew plenty of

observers. Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel wasn’t one of them.

“The hitters are here,” pitching coach Rich Dubee joked.

While Manuel watched Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and other

Phillies take their cuts, Lidge took his first step toward

returning from offseason surgeries on his elbow and knee.

“We have to build some arm strength first, and the rest of my

body is doing great,” Lidge said Monday. “I feel happy about that

now.”

Lidge threw 20 pitches — all fastballs — off a mound. Dubee

said the closer will probably take two days off before throwing

again.

“Brad looked fine,” Dubee said. “One thing we want to make

sure is he doesn’t skip from step one to step five.”

It’s far too early to know whether Lidge will be ready when

the NL champion Phillies open the season at Washington on April 5.

Lidge said last week he was two weeks behind schedule, but he’s

making progress.

“I’d say I’m right about the same,” he said. “I feel I’m

right ahead of that two weeks. With the bullpen today, I kind of

stayed right there. I didn’t come out and feel 100 percent. That

being said, nothing hurts and I was able to use my body in the way

I was hoping to this year without having any pain or side effects.

It’s all about building arm strength now and I’m going to have to

do a lot of work to get that.”

Lidge was a perfect 48 for 48 in save chances in 2008,

helping the Phillies win the World Series. But he led the majors

with 11 blown saves last year and finished 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA in

the regular season.

Injuries were certainly a factor in Lidge’s decline. The knee

pain caused him to change his mechanics. He put more pressure on

his right arm, leading to the elbow problem.

Lidge bounced back in the first two rounds of the playoffs,

going 1-0 with three saves in as many tries. He didn’t allow a run

in five appearances and gave up just one hit in four innings.

But he struggled in his only outing against the New York

Yankees in the World Series. He gave up three runs in the ninth in

a 7-4 loss in Game 4 as the Yankees took a 3-1 series lead. They

won in six games.

“I tried this winter not to think at all about what I was

doing in 2009 and instead getting back to just driving the ball

like I did in 2008 and every year before,” Lidge said. “Fortunately

for me that muscle memory seemed to pick up right away and today I

was able to do that off a mound.”