BOSTON -- Brad Lidge made seven relief appearances for the Nationals in April, before he required surgery to repair a sports hernia, and all seven came in the ninth inning or later.
After about six weeks on the shelf, Lidge is back in the Nationals bullpen. But you probably won't be seeing him pitch the ninth inning unless something out of the ordinary happens.
Manager Davey Johnson said today he plans to keep Tyler Clippard in the closer's role for the foreseeable future, likely until Drew Storen comes back from elbow surgery in mid-July. That leaves Lidge in the setup role he was originally signed to hold.
"I know Bradley can close ballgames," Johnson said prior to the Nationals' series opener against the Red Sox. "And I'll probably keep him in that group with Sean Burnett and my closer, Clippard. Keep him in that threesome there. Hopefully I'll get a lot of work for Clippard, and he'll need some relief."
That was the first time Johnson specifically used the word "closer" when describing Clippard, but it had become fairly obvious the right-hander had inherited the role over the last 2 12 weeks.
Johnson has turned to Clippard in each of the Nationals' last five save opportunities, dating to May 22 in Philadelphia. And the All-Star setup man has successfully converted all five opportunities, dominating opposing hitters in the process.
Clippard has yet to surrender a hit since taking over closer duties, and over his last 16 appearances he's allowed only one earned run and three hits (all singles).
Lidge, meanwhile, blew two of four save chances (and posted a 5.14 ERA) in April before suffering his injury. Signed over the winter for 1 million after saving 223 games for the Astros and Phillies, the veteran was expected to serve as a setup man and mentor for Storen.
Lidge made two rehab appearances for Class A Potomac and was due to make at least one more before coming off the disabled list. But with Henry Rodriguez struggling and dealing with a strained finger, the Nationals activated Lidge sooner than planned Thursday.
Lidge is available to pitch tonight against the Red Sox.
"I know we cut short his rehab because of Henry Rodriguez, and he was a little concerned I might use him yesterday after his second rehab game," Johnson said. "But I think he's fine. And I feel comfortable, no matter how I use him."