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Brad Lidge's elbow stiffness should have the Phillies shopping for a closer

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Brad Lidge: possibly injured again. Photo: Joe Vallee Sr.Just when it seemed the Phillies' bullpen was getting back on track, think again.

The reason why Brad Lidge wasn't warming up in the bullpen last night when the Phillies took a 6-5 lead against the Rockies in the top of the ninth inning is because he wasn't able to throw due to elbow stiffness. Although this is a setback, it's kind of par for the course with Lidge at this point. Lidge (with the exception of his debut this season) has actually been pitching pretty well this season. Sure, those fly balls on Sunday against the Braves were rather long, but they stayed in the park.

I know it's only May, but with these problems persisting, it may be wise for the Phillies to start shopping for a reliable closer. Obviously, it's easier said than done because they don't just grow on trees. Maybe this is nothing big. Lidge may have just what was reported: elbow stiffness. However, do you want to run the risk of AGAIN having an unreliable/often-injured stopper come playoff time? Ryan Madson  was mostly ineffective in that role prior to his injury, and J.C. Romero is either rusty or is no longer effective altogether. That leaves the entire three-headed monster that helped this team win a World Series two years ago either injured, or simply unreliable.

Chad Durbin and Jose Contreras  have been outstanding all season, but Charlie Manuel will run the risk of burning both of them out if he has to continue using them. As you recall, Durbin was remarkable for the first four months of 2008, then he seemed to run out of gas towards August. And to be honest, nobody knows how old Contreras actually is!  Danys Baez is still scary to watch, and David Herndon will probably only pitch in mop up duty. It may finally be time for the Phillies to see what Scott Mathieson  is made of and promote him from Triple-A. Although Ruben Amaro doesn't think he is quite ready, Mathieson's numbers at Triple-A are exceptional. As previously mentioned in other posts, the Phillies farm system has mostly thinned out over the last few seasons, so don't expect a marquee closer coming to Philadelphia without paying a nice price for it.

The Phillies can probably band-aid things for a few months, but one thing is for sure: Amaro has to straighten out this bullpen in the coming months if the Phillies have intentions of doing ANYTHING past September. The starters are not strong enough to only have an average bullpen, and the last month of last season was a nightmare trying to piece things together.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com