VIERA, Fla. -- There was a time, earlier in his career, when Brad Lidge would show up for his first bullpen session of spring training, reach back and fire off as many max-effort pitches as his arm could handle.
Somewhere along the way, perhaps after he had dealt with some early-season arm injuries, Lidge came to realize there might be a better way to prepare himself at spring training.
"I think I had different approaches when I was younger. I tried to come in and build arm strength, the hell with location a lot of times," he said. "But at this point in my career, I know for me it's wise to start with location and then try to tack on the arm strength after that. And I think that's probably true for most people. Sometimes it just takes a few injuries to let you know that's definitely the way to go."
Now injury-free and secure enough to know he's not trying to win a job on the first day of camp, Lidge is putting his smarter approach to work. His bullpen session this morning was perhaps the sharpest one thrown by any member of the Nationals' pitching staff.
Lidge, 35, wasn't lighting up the radar gun -- actually, there are no velocity readings at these throwing sessions -- but his command was pinpoint. He was hitting his catcher's target on both fastballs and sliders with a frequency not usually seen during these workouts.
"I'd say it was solid," he said. "I like to kind of ramp it up slow, so those first couple of outings are probably going to be where I'm really working on hitting those spots, which is what I was trying to do today. So far, so good. Everything feels real solid."
Signed this winter to a one-year, 1 million contract with incentives after spending the last four seasons with the Phillies (most of that time as their closer), Lidge is expected to serve as a setup man with the Nationals, pitching the seventh or eighth inning in front of Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen.
"He knows what he needs to do to get ready," manager Davey Johnson said. "I'm not concerned with him at all. We all know what he can do and what he's capable of doing."