Lidge to close out talk of '05 playoffs

Lidge set to close out talk of 2005 playoffs

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Houston Astros manager Phil Garner gently informed reporters over the weekend that Brad Lidge would address the events of last October one more time, and then that subject would be officially closed, for good.

Those lucky reporters were greeted by a willing participant in Lidge, who talked about last year's playoffs the same way he did 20 minutes after Albert Pujols' moon shot and two months after Game 4 of the World Series. He was matter-of-fact, professional, honest -- and he guaranteed listeners not to worry. Lidge isn't on the ledge.

Lidge made this much clear: He'd give up six more Pujols bombs for a trip to the World Series. And he's fairly certain Pujols would give that home run back if it meant his Cardinals were the team to win the National League Championship Series.

"When you're playing that late in the postseason, you're playing a team game," Lidge said. "And your personal stats don't matter. As a team, you're trying to get to the World Series. That home run doesn't matter at all."

Scott Podsednik's did, however. His home run to center field in Game 2 of the World Series -- the second long ball he'd hit all season -- sealed the win for the White Sox and set the wheels in motion for the Sox' four-game sweep of the Astros.

Lidge also gave up the winning run in Game 4, when Jermaine Dye bounced a single up the middle in a scoreless game in the eighth inning. That hit scored Willie Harris from third base, and the White Sox won, 1-0.

"The guy [Podsednik] hadn't hit a home run all year, and he hits one in the World Series," Lidge said. "You have to tip your hat. The last 3 1/3 innings I threw in the World Series, I gave up one run. It just happened to be in a 0-0 game. I'm not worried about stuff. It didn't take me long to get over it. It didn't need a whole lot of analysis."

"You're accustomed to guys not touching him, much less getting hits," Garner said. "And there were no such things as home runs. So it's a little shocking when that happens.

"But it's going to happen in our game. Players have to realize nobody goes through their careers without getting thumped every once in a while. The true test of your character is when you have a tough time, can you bounce back?"

Of course, the Pujols homer has received the most play of any of the runs Lidge gave up. The Astros were one out away from going to their first World Series. Minute Maid Park was so loud it sounded like the closed roof was about to crumble. The podium was set up in the home clubhouse for the presentation of the National League trophy, and every locker and television was covered in plastic as a protection from the soon-to-be-flying champagne.

Pujols later said as soon as the ball left his bat, it was as if someone pushed the mute button on their remote control. It was over that fast.

While Garner's edict probably eliminated the talk this spring, it's likely that the Pujols-Lidge showdown will resurface again -- probably more than once. And inevitably, so will the question of Lidge's psyche.

"If it wasn't Pujols that hit it, it probably wouldn't be as big of a story," Lidge said. "People love controversy sometimes, and people love when something abnormal happens. People know that 90-95 percent of the time, it doesn't affect anybody. Sometimes if [pitchers] have other issues off the field or other backgrounds that create mental problems, then it can have an effect on them. So, people are clinging onto, maybe, something more interesting develops than [what actually] did happen."

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What did happen was relatively non-eventful. After the World Series, Lidge went home to Denver, hung out with his family, took a couple of vacations and attended his sister's wedding.

No 12-step programs for him. He's back in camp, talking fantasy football and leading his hitting group in a highly-contested bunting competition among his fellow pitchers. In other words, it's business as usual.

"For me, it's just nice to get back to Spring Training," he said. "I've turned the page. I'm really looking forward to the season. I don't really think about last year when I look forward to this season.

"I think about how great we did last year as a team. I was really happy with my year as a whole. When I think about last year, I don't think about the last week of the season. I think about the All-Star Game, being in the World Series. I was real happy with my year. I want to build on that this year, and that's what I think about."

In that vein, Lidge is working on a new pitch -- the split-finger fastball. He toyed with it a year ago but steered away from it after a short time. Now, he feels he's ready to test it in earnest.

"I've been throwing it the last couple years in the bullpen, and it finally feels like it's comfortable enough right now that I want to see how hitters are reacting to it," Lidge said. "I want to throw it a lot when I'm not in the World [Baseball Classic] baseball games.

"Once you're in the big leagues for three or four years like I am now -- two pitches for three or four years -- it's not a bad idea to show them something different."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.