Manuel backs off support of Lidge

WASHINGTON -- Before the game, Charlie Manuel declared: "Lidge is our closer."

After the game, the Philadelphia Phillies manager was no longer certain.

Yet, confusingly enough, Brad Lidge seemed to feel the job was definitely still his, creating a head-shaking disparity between the statements of manager and player.

Manuel pulled Lidge after four batters in the ninth inning of Tuesday night's 5-3 win over the Washington Nationals. Lidge, who had his 10th blown save of the season in his previous appearance on Saturday, retired only one batter amid a single, a hit batter, a wild pitch and a walk.

Ryan Madson entered and retired Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn with the bases loaded to earn the save that usually belongs to Lidge -- forcing Manuel to backtrack on his pregame vote of confidence.

"When I say he's my closer, I don't tell lies, and I don't like to go back on nothing," Manuel said. "But the team and the game is bigger than my heart and is bigger than anything else, if you want to know the truth. Winning a game, that's why I manage and that's what comes first, and it was real tough for me to do."

That led to the obvious question: If there's a save situation on Wednesday, is Lidge still the closer?

"He could definitely be," Manuel said. "I'm definitely not going to get away from him. We're going to work with him and get him back to where he can get consistent and go out there and save games. I'm not saying that he'll close tomorrow, the next day or whatever, but I look at him as a closer. I don't look at him as a seventh-inning guy; I don't look at him as an eighth-inning guy."

Manuel went on to be effusive in his praise the way Madson handled the bases-loaded jam. Was that a subtle way of saying Madson is getting the job?

"Don't read into nothing," Manuel said. "It's hard to tell what I'll do. I'm trying to win the game."

Manuel made his remarks immediately after a postgame meeting with Lidge, yet Lidge and Manuel had different takes on what was decided. As far as Lidge is concerned, he's still the closer.

"If there's a save situation tomorrow, he said he was going to bring me in," Lidge said. "So I'll just keep grinding and hopefully this month I'll be able to get it together and get ready for the postseason."

As for what is going wrong, Lidge said he is struggling to locate the ball when pitching from the stretch.

"We won the game, and that's the bottom line," Lidge said. "When I got into the stretch, my control wasn't there."

Lidge converted all 48 of his save chances last year and was signed to a three-year extension midway the 2008 season. His record this year is 0-7 with a 7.11 ERA. He has allowed 60 hits in 50 2/3 innings and walked 32. Last season, he allowed two home runs in 69 1/3 innings. This year, he has given up 11.

Lidge had been unavailable for the previous two games at Houston due to a blister on his right index finger. He said the blister did not affect his performance against the Nationals.

Manuel said he had a bad feeling Tuesday when Lidge hit Willie Harris with one out and a man on base.

"I have the all the respect in the world for Brad," Manuel said. "I know how good of a closer he is and how great he can be, and I still have the confidence in the world, but as I was sitting there I didn't have a very good feel about the game and I made up my mind I wanted to try Madson."

In other Phillies pitching news, rookie left-hander J.A. Happ, who missed his start on Monday at Houston due to an oblique strain, will also miss his next start.

The Phillies were also without lefty reliever Scott Eyre, who was sidelined by an elbow injury.

"I'm concerned about it. We've got to have enough pitchers," Manuel said.