Brad Lidge's perfect first half earned him a fat, new contract.
Lidge signed a $37.5 million, three-year extension with the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday. The hard-throwing closer is 2-0 with 19 saves in as many chances in his first season with the Phillies.
Lidge would've been a free agent after this season. His contract includes a club option that could make it worth $49 million over four years.
"I knew right away this would be a good opportunity for me to play for a team that is competing every single year to get to the playoffs and win a World Series," Lidge said. "That's a huge factor for me."
The 31-year-old right-hander has a 0.77 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 35 innings. He set a club record by converting his first 19 save opportunities, and didn't allow an earned run through his first 17 appearances (17 innings), which was the second-longest by a Phillies pitcher to start his career with the team.
"This is a player that's on top of his game and certainly we believe in him long term," assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "We felt it was important for us to move forward on it."
The Phillies acquired Lidge and utilityman Eric Bruntlett from Houston in November for outfielder Michael Bourn, reliever Geoff Geary and third baseman Mike Costanzo, a former first-round pick.
Lidge established himself as a premier closer when he converted 29 of 33 save opportunities and posted a 1.90 ERA for the Astros in 2004. He was 42-for-46 with a 2.29 ERA in '05. But after allowing a long homer to St. Louis' Albert Pujols in the NL championship series, Lidge wasn't the same. He lost two games to the White Sox in the World Series and had a 5.28 ERA the following year, when he saved 32 games in 38 chances.
Last year, Lidge went 5-3 with 19 saves and a 3.36 ERA in 66 games. But he blew eight save chances and temporarily lost his closer's job to Dan Wheeler at one point.
Lidge started this season late after having knee surgery in spring training. But he's been lights-out since throwing his first pitch.
"The one thing that may have helped this year was having the injury, and really focusing on control for the first time in my career through spring training," Lidge said. "Instead of trying to get my arm ready to throw as hard as I could, I tried to make sure that my control would be as good as it's been. I really do feel like I'm at the top of my game. The experiences that I've had have definitely helped me get to where I'm at right now."
Securing Lidge through at least 2011 means the Phillies plan to keep the recently demoted Brett Myers as a starter. Myers has struggled this season after returning to the rotation following a successful stint as closer last year.
Myers prefers closing because it fits his mentality, but the Phillies need him to start. He was sent to Triple-A Lehigh Valley last week to work on his problems.
"We think that Brett could start and we don't see a reason he can't start," GM Pat Gillick said. "If he gets his mechanical issues worked out down there, I don't see any reason he can't start.
"There are a lot of things in life that a lot of people don't want to do. But you're getting paid and you've got to show up for work, and you've got to do the best job you can. He's a gamer and I think he'll go out there and give 100 percent no matter if he's in a closer situation."
Myers is in the second year of a three-year contract. He's making $8.5 million this season and $12 million in 2009. That's too much to pay a setup man, so he won't be going to the bullpen anytime soon.