June 9, 2009 7:38 PM

Lidge to DL, Gabor Paul Bako II Recalled

Nationals vs. Phillies

The Phillies placed reliever Brad Lidge on the 15-Day Disabled List on Tuesday, retroactive to Sunday, June 7th. Veteran catcher Paul Bako was recalled from Reading (AA) to take Lidge's roster spot. These moves are very intriguing, both in terms of timing, and in how the construction of the MLB roster has been affected. There are many unanswered questions, and we can only speculate as to the true thinking behind the roster adjustments.

Why place Lidge on the DL now, as opposed to before he blew six save opportunities?
Given that this move occurred shortly after the return of J.C. Romero to the bullpen, it seems that the Phillies didn't feel comfortable with a 'pen missing both Romero and Lidge. So they had Lidge continue, despite physical pain, until Romero's return. Perhaps Lidge's knee has been bothering him, despite his comments to the contrary, and the Phillies think this is the best time to give him a rest. Lidge has been more effective in recent weeks, but maybe the Phillies are concerned about his long-term health. It is better to have him out of the lineup now, than in September/October.
It is also possible that the recent blown saves have had an effect on Lidge, mentally, and that this break is as much (or more) for his mental health, as it is for his physical health.

Who closes during Lidge's absence?
Ryan Madson. No questions asked.

Why not recall a pitcher (Sergio Escalona? Gary Majewski?) to take Lidge's spot?
Swapping a pitcher, for a position player, reduces the Phillies' bullpen to a more conventional seven relievers, and gives Charlie Manuel five position players (Matt Stairs, Greg Dobbs, Eric Bruntlett, Chris Coste, Paul Bako) off the bench. But, given Manuel's reluctance to use relievers Chan Ho Park and Jack Taschner, the Phils' have only five trusted relievers. The Phillies must have decided that they are better off with the extra bench bat, at least during the timeframe they are considering. (I would expect more roster moves when they play with a designated hitter, in Toronto, in less than two weeks.)

If they wanted an extra bat, why not recall right-handed hitting outfielder John Mayberry, Jr. from Lehigh Valley (AAA)?
Though Mayberry was sent back to AAA fewer than fifteen days ago, he was eligible for recall, as he would have replaced a disabled player. Eric Bruntlett should not be a team's top right-handed hitting bench option. (At least not a MLB team.) Mayberry would be a huge upgrade over Bruntlett as a hitter, and as an outfielder.
However, at the MLB level, Mayberry would not be playing every day. Getting regular plate appearances at AAA would be best for Mayberry's development as a prospect, and as a potential trade piece. Unless other moves are made in the interim, he could be recalled for the Toronto series.

Why Paul Bako? How does he help?
The role the Phillies will be expecting Bako to play is, probably, a minor one. He will likely start one day a week, if at all. He is a strong defensive catcher, and could be used to give starter Carlos Ruiz some innings off. Current backup catcher Chris Coste is not good defensively. Coste, however, has a good right-handed bat. Manuel rarely used Coste as a pinch-hitter because he wouldn't have had another catching option,if Ruiz had to leave the game. Bako's presence frees up Coste to be used as a pinch-hitter on a regular basis.
There also might be more moves coming. Chris Coste could have some trade value, as a veteran catcher with a good bat. He could be packaged (with minor league prospect(s) and/or payroll relief) to get a right-handed hitting outfielder (Willingham?) or starting pitcher.
Thinking further outside the box, perhaps starting catcher Carlos Ruiz could be involved in a trade? Ruiz is strong defensively, and hitting very well this season. His trade value may never be higher. He could be the solution to a team's catching troubles for a number of seasons, and could probably net a very good player. (Perhaps a trade to the Red Sox, for starting pitcher Clay Buchholz, would make sense for both teams?)
Trading Ruiz would leave the Phils with Lou Marson, Paul Bako, and Chris Coste as catching options, but another deal could be made later, to upgrade that position.

Why is Jack Taschner still on this team?
I got nothin'.

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