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Updates on NL East Players

Postby MadDog36 » Fri Mar 21, 2008 6:54 am

I ran across a couple of great articles, filled with a lot of current information on a lot of pitchers from the NL East. Those of you in NL only play might be benefited the most, Here ya go:

New closer Brad Lidge might be ready to start the season with the Philadelphia Phillies. John Patterson is looking for a job after he was released by the Washington Nationals.

Lidge pitched in a minor league intrasquad game Thursday at Clearwater, Fla., retiring four of the five batters he faced with three strikeouts and a walk. The right-hander, who had arthroscopic knee surgery last month, looked sharp enough that he just might be available for the NL East champions on opening day.

“I felt great with everything from warming up to throwing in the game,” Lidge said. “There is nothing better than facing hitters and that was a lot of fun.”

In a surprise move, the oft-injured Patterson was cut by Washington a little more than a week before the season begins. He was thought to be a candidate to start for the Nationals when they open their new ballpark March 30 against Atlanta.

As for Mike Gonzalez, he's way ahead of schedule and hasn't had any of the common problems experienced by pitchers coming back from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. Still, the Braves are going to keep the left-handed reliever on his timetable, which would put him back in action in early June.

Gonzalez, who has impressed manager Bobby Cox with his pinpoint control this month, could be a great mid-season addition to the bullpen. Teamed with Rafael Soriano and Peter Moylan, he could help the Braves feel quite confident about most seventh-inning leads.

“I thought things were going well,” the right-hander said.

Lidge, the key offseason acquisition for the Phillies, threw 19 pitches, including 11 strikes. The only major leaguer he faced was teammate Jayson Werth, who walked on five pitches. Lidge threw fastballs, sliders and a two-seamer. Pitching coach Rich Dubee said Lidge’s next outing will come against minor leaguers on Sunday.

“My goal is to get ready for the season no matter where they put me,” Lidge said. “I feel mentally that’s going to be the case. I don’t want to jinx myself, but I feel real comfortable with where I’m at right now and I feel I need a few more outings to get ready.”

Lidge went 5-3 with 19 saves and a 3.36 ERA in 66 games last season with the Astros. But he also blew eight save chances and temporarily lost his closer’s job to Dan Wheeler during the season.

Injuries contributed to some of Lidge’s problems last year. He was sidelined from mid-June to mid-July because of a pulled muscle in his left side, and he had surgery on Oct. 1 to repair torn cartilage in his right knee.

Convinced he was fine, the Phillies sent outfielder Michael Bourn, reliever Geoff Geary and minor league third baseman Mike Costanzo, a former first-round draft pick, to Houston for Lidge and utilityman Eric Bruntlett.

But Lidge re-injured his knee when he caught a spike in the mound on his first pitch of batting practice this spring.

He didn’t get a chance to make a fielding play Thursday, but feels comfortable that he can get off the mound and cover first base if necessary.

“I wasn’t worried about it,” he said.

Patterson was Washington’s opening-day starter in 2007. But he missed much of the last two seasons because of right forearm problems, limiting him to 15 starts in 2006 and 2007 combined. He had surgery in September to repair a nerve problem.

“We spent spring training evaluating him, and we came to the conclusion it was better to give our younger kids a chance to start,” Nationals manager Manny Acta said by telephone from the team’s camp in Viera, Fla.

“It’s a rehabilitation-in-progress,” Acta added, “and we can’t afford to do that every five days.”

Patterson was called into general manager Jim Bowden’s office Thursday afternoon to get the news.

“I knew that it was possible, but it was a little bit of a surprise,” the pitcher said. “They didn’t feel like I was 100 percent yet.”

He, on the other hand, said his arm feels OK.

“I don’t have any pain,” Patterson said. “I’ve been able to throw every day.”

The 30-year-old Patterson hasn’t been able to recapture the form he showed for Washington in 2005, when he was 9-7 with a 3.13 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 198 1-3 innings.

In his final exhibition start for the Nationals, last Sunday against Baltimore, he allowed six runs and eight hits in four innings.

“What we did is best for both the team and John. It gives him enough time to get a job somewhere else,” Acta said. “It would have been worse to keep him to the end.”

Patterson spent several hours on the phone Thursday, speaking to his agent and getting a sense of what team might be a good fit.

“I’ve never been released before, so I was wondering, ‘What’s the next step? What do I do now?”’ he said. “We’re talking with some teams, waiting to see what will happen. We’re waiting to see what offers are out there.”

Rafael Soriano surrendered a two-run homer to the Astros at Osceola County Stadium on Wednesday night, but the Braves' closer still provided some encouragement for his skipper.
"He was free and easy, and he struck out [Lance] Berkman, who is hard to strike out," manager Bobby Cox said. "I was happy to see that."

Because he experienced some discomfort above his right elbow at the beginning of this month, Soriano was making just his second Grapefruit League appearance. During his debut, on Saturday against the Rays, he tossed a scoreless inning that included a few 94-mph fastballs.

Cox thought that the veteran right-handed reliever, who is entering a season as a closer for the first time, had even better velocity on Wednesday. Soriano's lone mistake came when Hunter Pence took advantage of a misplaced 1-2 fastball and directed it over the center-field wall for a two-run homer.

Soriano rebounded to end the inning with the strikeout of Berkman. He'd started the inning with a strikeout of Brad Ausmus.

"Soriano had two punchouts in an inning, which is good, and then he laid a ball in there to Pence," Cox said.

Cox said Soriano looks healthy and that the club has never even hinted that they would start the season without him as their closer.

Upon hearing that Jeff Francoeur got hit in the lip with a pitch during Sunday afternoon's game against the Cardinals, Braves pitcher Tim Hudson playfully said his initial thought was, "How did it miss his nose?"
All anatomical jokes aside, Francoeur came back to Disney's Wide World of Sports complex on Wednesday afternoon, looking normal and feeling excited about returning to the Braves lineup on Thursday night, when they host the Tigers.

"The quicker I can get back in there, the better," said Francoeur, acknowledging that a fear can develop after getting hit in the face with a pitch. "I want to try to get going as soon as possible. This isn't something you want to let linger."

Unfortunately for Francoeur, he's already gained an understanding of what it takes to fight back after getting hit in the face. And at the same time, he's fortunate that the Todd Wellemeyer offspeed pitch that struck the left side of his lip wasn't nearly as destructive as the pitch that broke his jaw midway through the 2004 season.

While playing for Class A Myrtle Beach during that summer day four years ago, Francoeur was squaring to bunt, when he fouled a pitch that essentially crushed his jaw bone. His jaw is still held together with the help of a metal plate that fortunately wasn't affected on Sunday.

"[The doctor] said I'm a lucky guy," Francoeur said. "He said another half-inch lower, I probably would have done something to my jaw. He said, another half-inch over this way, I probably would have done something to my teeth. And another half-inch up, it would have hit in the cheekbone. So he said, it actually hit in a good place."

Francoeur said his response was, "I don't feel lucky because I just got hit in the face for the second time in four years. But I do feel lucky, because this close to the [end] of Spring Training, that could have been something that put me out for a while."

While taking batting practice on Wednesday, Francoeur showed no signs of restrictions. The 24-year-old Gold Glove outfielder said the swelling that had still existed on Monday was almost completely gone by Tuesday.

Francoeur said that he has spent parts of the past three days gargling salt-water to help heal some of the small cuts that exist within his mouth. He didn't need stitches and didn't lose any of his teeth.

"The outside feels fine," Francoeur said. "It's still a little rough on the inside.
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