Nationals add Lidge to bullpen mix on one-year deal

Yesterday, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said he had a few more roster “tweaks” in mind before players started reporting to spring training in Viera, Fla.

Well, the tweaking is under way.

The Nationals have signed former Phillies closer Brad Lidge, adding the right-hander to an already-crowded bullpen picture. Lidge gets a one-year deal for $1 million.

The 35-year-old Lidge was 0-2 with a 1.40 ERA and one save in 25 games after rehabbing from a rotator cuff injury in his throwing shoulder. He appeared mostly in a set-up role, the same job description he’ll have with the Nationals, where he will share duties with Tyler Clippard and Sean Burnett.

Lidge has 223 career saves and saved 27 games as recently as 2010. In 2008, he was 48-for-48 in saves, notching 41 during the regular season and seven more in the postseason, including the final out of the Phillies’ World Series championship over the Rays. He won’t get save chances with the Nationals, where he’ll help continue Drew Storen’s maturation process into a major league closer. Storen has long admired Lidge, so he’s likely not to feel any threat from the newcomer.

Lidge is 26-31 with 67 holds and a 3.44 ERA in 592 career games over 10 seasons with the Astros and Phillies. He has struck out more than 31 percent of all batters faced and his strikeout rate of 12 batters per nine innings is the highest all-time among pitchers to throw at least 500 innings in the majors. But Lidge walked 13 in 19 1/3 innings last season, which is a concern, and his 6.1 walks per nine innings was the highest total of his career (his second-highest total of 5.2 came in 2009, when he has his worst season, going 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA despite 31 saves)

Last week, we covered a breakdown of how the Nationals’ bullpen might look in 2012. It’s possible the acquisition of Lidge could push Henry Rodriguez out of the picture in a seven-man ‘pen. Ryan Mattheus might have an edge over Rodriguez because of his ability to effectively work more than one inning. Before you ask, Lidge didn’t pitch more than an inning in any appearance last year, and worked on successive days only twice during his injury comeback.

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