Sunday, July 30, 2006

Astros Dangle Brad Lidge to Find Yet Another Bat

Once the pride of the Houston Astros bullpen, superstar closer Brad Lidge suddenly finds himself expendable in frenetic trade talks to acquire yet another bat. It's a bit of a shock, but the emergence of relief pitchers Chad Qualis and Dan Wheeler has made the unthinkalbe thinkable, especially with Lidge's puzzling meltdowns in critical situations throughout the year. Teammate Roger Clemens, and pitching coaches Mark Bailey and Jim Hickey have worked tirelessly with the 30-year-old former fan favorite to keep him from tipping pitches and to convince him to stick with the form that has helped him chalk up 23 saves and strike out more than 70 in fewer than 50 innings. But the one part of Lidge's game they can't reach is between his ears, as Lidge seems to have lost his killer instinct since his untimely reversal of fortunes in last year's post season. Time after time Lidge has had batters on the ropes with two strikes against them, and two outs in his pocket, only to give up hits so costly that his earned run average has ballooned to more than 5.00. Meanwhile Qualis, 28, has held lefties to a .218 batting average and righties to .236. Wheeler, 29, who already has closed one game for a save, has been touched up a bit by lefties, batting .292 against him, but has held righties to little more than .200.