The Nationals designated struggling reliever Brad Lidge for assignment this morning, activating right-hander Ryan Mattheus off the 15-day disabled list to take his roster spot.
Feeling the need to add a fresh arm after yesterday's 14-inning loss to the Yankees, general manager Mike Rizzo said the Lidge/Mattheus swap made the most sense.
"Brad wasn't performing very well, and he was disappointed," Rizzo said. "Mattheus was ready to come off the rehab assignment, and we felt this was the right time to make the move."
Lidge took the loss yesterday, giving up three hits (including Mark Teixeira's two-run double) in the top of the 14th. While lamenting several groundball singles he surrendered the last couple of days, the 35-year-old also understood he wasn't performing at a high enough standard.
"It is frustrating when something like that happens, but you just try to grind through it," he said following yesterday's game. "Just keep throwing good pitches, quality pitches, and at some point those balls will get to people and we'll make outs. But until then, you've just got to battle and keep throwing strikes."
Owner of 225 career saves and two All-Star appearances, Lidge signed a one-year, $1 million with the Nationals in February and was expected to hold a key role as a setup man and mentor for closer Drew Storen. But when Storen needed surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow, Lidge became one of manager Davey Johnson's co-closers (with Henry Rodriguez) to open the season.
Lidge earned the save on Opening Day in Chicago but quickly fell into trouble. In 11 total appearances, he wound up with a 9.64 ERA, a career-worst 2.464 WHIP and two blown saves. A sports hernia required surgery and sidelined him for five weeks, but he surrendered runs in three of his four appearances after returning from the DL earlier this month.
"I think he was healthy," Rizzo said. "He said he was healthy. He threw like he was healthy. He was in no pain, no after-effects after he was done rehabbing."
The DFA move leaves Lidge in limbo for as many as 10 days. If he passes through waivers unclaimed, the Nationals could outright him to Class AAA, though they're unlikely to do that with a veteran of his stature. A more plausible scenario would have Lidge released once he clears, at which point he'll be free to sign with another club.
Rizzo met with Lidge behind closed doors this morning and appreciated the way the veteran reliever dealt with the news.
"He handled it like the professional that he is," Rizzo said. "After his performance yesterday, he told me he felt he knew there would some kind of move in the bullpen. Like I said, he was disappointed in the way he pitched and he was sorry it didn't turn out better."
Mattheus returns after missing three weeks with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. The 28-year-old right-hander had a 2.25 ERA in 19 games before suffering his injury and made three minor-league rehab appearances before team officials were convinced he was ready to come off the DL.