Many starting pitchers, particularly veterans on the long side of 30, treat stepping into the batter's box as something of a chore.
Cory Lidle isn't one of those pitchers. When Lidle takes his swings, he wants to make them count, and when he puts the ball in play - even a routine grounder - the 33-year-old runs full-bore to first base.
"I see myself as being pretty athletic and someone who can run pretty good," Lidle said.
Of course, it can be argued that Lidle's eagerness is the reason why he's on the disabled list with a strained left oblique muscle. When Lidle took a hack in the fourth inning of a game against the Giants, he felt a twinge in his side and had to leave the game. Although Lidle said Friday that his strained oblique felt much better, it didn't change the decision to skip Lidle's next turn in the rotation. Eventually, the injury was diagnosed to be a little worse than originally thought and the Phillies decided to err on the side of caution and put Lidle on the DL. Not coincidentally, it also opened up a spot for the newly acquired Michael Tucker.
"We're going to give him more recovery time," pitching coach Rich Dubee said.
The Phillies' schedule aided in the decision. Since the Phils had Thursday off and had a travel day on Monday, they were able to go with Robinson Tejeda Tuesday in New York and won't need a fifth starter again until they play the next-to-last game of the road trip in Washington on Saturday.
"Anybody would want to get back as soon as they can," said Lidle (9-10, 4.75). "But I want to wait until I'm 100 percent. I don't want to aggravate it."
As for Lidle's aggressive attitude as an offensive player, neither he nor Dubee believes that has to change.
There have been times when Lidle's competence offensively has helped the Phils. In fact, in the second inning Wednesday Lidle had an RBI single, went from first to third base on a Kenny Lofton single, then tagged and scored on a sacrifice fly that wasn't hit especially deep.
"When I went from first to third on Kenny's hit, it ended up getting us a run," said Lidle, who is hitting .178 and is tied for the team lead with eight sacrifice bunts. "In fact, on that ground ball (he hit after suffering the injury on the previous swing), if I didn't pull the muscle I probably could have beaten it out."
"You're always a little leery when a pitcher is up there, but that's something that comes with the National League game," Dubee said. "I like the National League game. Sure, it puts pitchers in a more vulnerable position sometimes, but a pitcher can get hurt throwing the ball just as easily."
Meanwhile, Tejeda has done his part to help cover Lidle’s injury. Tejeda was summoned to protect the 5-4 lead the Phillies had gained in the inning when Lidle got hurt and responded with two shutout innings, striking out three and showing no problems adjusting to the emergency relief role.
"I feel great," Tejeda said after the Phillies' 7-4 victory. "Every time they want to use me, every situation, I can do my job. When you feel your arm is strong, you don't need too many pitches to warm up."
Following an extended warm-up period, Tejeda immediately began hitting 96 mph with his fastball, holding the Giants hitless. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said that Tejeda could have pitched another inning, but his turn in the order came up in the top of the seventh.
Tejeda has shuttled between the rotation and bullpen several times this year. The rookie was called up May 6 and served in relief before making his first major-league start on June 8, throwing five shutout innings against Texas.
He made two relief appearances after having his turn skipped in mid-July. Overall, he had made 12 starts and has a 2.86 ERA in those outings, versus a 4.32 ERA in his 11 relief games coming into his start Tuesday in New York. That outing was also strong as he pitched six innings, giving up two earned runs on seven hits and a walk. Tejeda left the game with a 4-2 lead, but Ryan Madson and Ugueth Urbina were hit for four runs over the final two innings, leading to a 6-4 loss for the Phillies.
"It's not a big deal being a starter or a reliever," he said. "It's the same thing. The only difference is, the starter has to be ready to go five innings."