ALLENTOWN - There was plenty of joy at Coca-Cola Park on Thursday night.
The Lehigh Valley IronPigs tied a team single game record with 18 hits in a 12-2 rout of the Pawtucket Red Sox.
Brandon Duckworth came off the DL to pitch five scoreless innings, a good start on what he hopes will take him on the right path back to the major leagues.
It was actually just a one-inning rehab stint thrown by Philadelphia Phillies reliever Brad Lidge that gained the most attention.
Lidge, who began his rehab after off-season knee and elbow surgeries with Single-A Clearwater on April 10, made his sixth start.
With the Pigs holding on to a 6-0 lead, Lidge entered the game in the sixth inning and threw 14 pitches, eight for strikes and didn't allow a hit in facing four batters. Two ground outs, a walk and a fly out accounted for his night before he heads for Reading to pitch another inning this evening. Then it will be a couple of days off and another stint at Reading on Monday.
The highest a Lidge pitch was caught by the radar gun was 93 mph and the 33-year old hurler was very happy with that.
"That's a good sign," Lidge said afterwards. "To be honest, I didn't know if I'd get there before I got back. That makes me pretty pleased with this outing.
"I wasn't thrilled with walking a guy. Probably when that second out came, I tried to hump up a little bit. You know, it was fun to pitch out there tonight. So I was glad I had a good inning out there and I felt good."
Lidge seems very confident that he is close to getting back in the Phillies bullpen.
"There are still a couple of things I'd like to fine tune," he said.
"My slider control is getting very close. I think I'll use these next three outings to make sure it's exactly where I want. My fastball control and command is definitely better than last year.
"I hopefully feel in my mind that I'm a lot closer to being the pitcher I was in 2008. I really feel health-wise, that I'm back there. So now it's just going out there and completing this next back-to-back game and a two inning outing."
Lidge was happy to get to face some guys who have had some major league experience to get a better read on his progress.
"Obviously, these guys have had a lot of big league time or have that experience and are a lot more patient at the plate than the guys at the lower levels," said Lidge. "You can have some pretty quick innings down there if your command is good. These guys will make you pitch a little more and that's very good for me to be able to see guys like this or even the guys in Reading at Double A. I need these outings and I need the hitters to see where my stuff is."
Lidge feels he is getting close because mechanically, he can do the things that he wasn't able to do last year after he went on the DL June 9th with a strained right knee injury.
"Throwing sliders and seeing hitters swings and misses and stuff, that all lets me know what's going on with how the hitters are seeing my pitches," he said. "My last couple of outings it seems like I'm hiding the ball a little better so that's kind of letting me know where I am."
So with the Phillies having the luxury of activating J.C. Romero yesterday, the Phillies bullpen is in pretty good shape. Putting starter J.A. Happ on the 15-day DL is another story.
As everything unfolds, Lidge will just take his time and will hopefully be back in the closer role for Charlie Manuel and Co. very soon.