Brad Lidge spent the last four seasons watching his Phillies beat up the Nationals. All of a sudden, the veteran reliever is on the other side of the equation, and he believes his new employer could be on the verge of supplanting his former club atop the NL East.
"I'm definitely excited for the new opportunity and playing for the Nationals," Lidge told CSNphilly.com's Jim Salisbury today after agreeing to a one-year, 1 million contract. "They have outstanding potential. I really think we can make a playoff run."
Though the 35-year-old has made his mark in the big leagues as a premier closer, he'll take on a much different role in Washington. General manager Mike Rizzo said Lidge will be used as a set-up man, helping bridge the gap between the Nationals' starting rotation and late relievers Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen.
"Drew Storen's our closer; Tyler Clippard's our setup guy," Rizzo said this afternoon during an interview at Nationals Park. "But Brad Lidge will get a lot of innings, a lot of important innings, a lot of high-leverage innings. And I think he'll handle them perfectly."
Arm injuries limited Lidge to only 25 games last season in Philadelphia, but when healthy after the All-Star break, he posted a 1.40 ERA while striking out 23 batters in 19 1 13 innings.
Rizzo said Lidge had an enhanced MRI taken of his right shoulder before signing this contract, which includes incentives for games pitched and finished.
"The doctors signed off on it," the GM said. "They say his shoulder is strong. He's healthy. He feels great. He's in great shape and coming in here with a great attitude and ready to prove to the baseball world he's got a lot left in the tank and he's ready to help us win games."
The Nationals view Lidge not only as another potentially reliable arm in an already-deep bullpen, but also as a mentor for Storen and the club's other young relievers.
"Who better to teach the Drew Storens and the Tyler Clippards and the Henry Rodriguezes of the world how to close games in pressure situations and in a pressure ballpark than Brad Lidge?" Rizzo said. "Combine that with character, makeup, clubhouse presence and ability to get hitters out, we felt it was a good fit for us at this time."
Lidge had hoped as recently as last week to re-sign with the Phillies, but upon learning from GM Ruben Amaro he was no longer in the team's plans quickly turned his attention to a Nationals organization itching to leapfrog its division rival.
"I understand," he told CSNphilly.com. "People change their mind. They signed some other free agents. Sometimes you have to turn the page."