Brad Lidge is the latest closer to go down with an injury and how long he will be out is completely unknown. The pain in his shoulder has yet to be identified, meaning he could be out a week, a month or maybe more. It was just a few days ago that I questioned if Lidge was even worth owning (click here to view) and now things look even more dubious. 

Obviously, there are two options for the Phillies to turn to, either Ryan Madson or Jose Contreras. The question is, who will it be? Or, will fantasy owners face yet another “closer-by-committee” situation?

According to Todd Zolecki of (click here for the article), the latter does not appear to be in the cards. Pitching coach Rick Dubee was quoted as saying, “Guys are more comfortable when they’re slotted into a role. It’s preparation. You know when your time is coming. When you’re grabbing at straws, guys are a little leery about what’s going on. You like to have that back end set up.”

So, knowing that it is likely going to be one or the other, which is the player that fantasy owners should be targeting?

Ryan Madson is clearly the more dynamic pitcher. He has the better stuff and you would think that he should excel closing out games. However, he has never seemed extremely comfortable in the ninth inning. It is a small sample size, but in 2010 he converted just five of 10 save opportunities. Over the past five seasons he has 19 saves in 35 opportunities.

In Zolecki’s article, Dubee is quoted as saying, “He doesn’t get to the same comfort level. There’s a little anxiety there. The ninth inning is a little different than the eighth. There have been solid eighth-inning guys that haven’t been able to pitch the ninth. One day they learn how to do it.”

Contreras, however, thrived in his brief chance as closer in ’10, converting four saves in five opportunities. In his first season in the bullpen he posted a 3.34 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 56.2 innings of work. That’s not to mention a 9.05 K/9, significantly better than he did while in the starting rotation.

If Friday’s spring game was any indication, you can tell which direction the Phillies are leaning:

Eighth Inning: Ryan Madson allows one hit in an otherwise clean inning as the setup man.

Ninth inning: Jose Contreras is perfect, complete with two strikeouts, picking up the save.

Should we be looking too much into spring strategy? Of course not, but past success clearly is going to factor into the Phillies thinking. Small sample size or not, you can tell by Dubee’s comments that Madson’s past struggles are certainly going to play a role. 

Obviously, to be safe all Lidge owners should be hoping to stash both Contreras and Madson. You really don’t know exactly what is going to happen at this point. However, if push comes to shove, all signs are currently pointing to Contreras getting the first opportunity to close out games. Right now neither appear to be a long-term options, but those looking to steal a few saves early on will want to probably nab Contreras.

What are your thoughts?  Who do you think is going to get the save opportunities? 

Make sure to order your copy of the Rotoprofessor 2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide, selling for just $5, by clicking here.

Make sure to check out our 2011 rankings:

Top 15 Catchers
Top 15 First Basemen

Top 15 Second Basemen

Top 15 Third Basemen

Top 15 Shortstops

Top 30 Outfielders

Top 30 Starting Pitchers

Top 15 Closers


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