New closer Brad Lidge might be ready to start the season with the Philadelphia Phillies. John Patterson is looking for a job after he was released by the Washington Nationals.
Lidge pitched in a minor league intrasquad game Thursday at Clearwater, Fla., retiring four of the five batters he faced with three strikeouts and a walk. The right-hander, who had arthroscopic knee surgery last month, looked sharp enough that he just might be available for the NL East champions on opening day.
"I felt great with everything from warming up to throwing in the game," Lidge said. "There is nothing better than facing hitters and that was a lot of fun."
In a surprise move, the oft-injured Patterson was cut by Washington a little more than a week before the season begins. He was thought to be a candidate to start for the Nationals when they open their new ballpark March 30 against Atlanta.
"I thought things were going well," the right-hander said.
Elsewhere, the Los Angeles Dodgers made their Cactus League debut, beating the Chicago White Sox 8-2 in Phoenix. The Dodgers are spending the rest of spring training at the Oakland Athletics' complex after saying goodbye to Dodgertown, their home in Vero Beach, Fla., since 1948. They plan to move into a new facility in nearby Glendale, Ariz., next year as long as construction is completed.
"It feels strange," Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda said. "Everywhere I go, I feel strange. In Vero, everything's right there. I don't know how it's going to be."
Lidge, the key offseason acquisition for the Phillies, threw 19 pitches, including 11 strikes. The only major leaguer he faced was teammate Jayson Werth, who walked on five pitches. Lidge threw fastballs, sliders and a two-seamer. Pitching coach Rich Dubee said Lidge's next outing will come against minor leaguers on Sunday.
"My goal is to get ready for the season no matter where they put me," Lidge said. "I feel mentally that's going to be the case. I don't want to jinx myself, but I feel real comfortable with where I'm at right now and I feel I need a few more outings to get ready."
Lidge went 5-3 with 19 saves and a 3.36 ERA in 66 games last season with the Astros. But he also blew eight save chances and temporarily lost his closer's job to Dan Wheeler during the season.
Injuries contributed to some of Lidge's problems last year. He was sidelined from mid-June to mid-July because of a pulled muscle in his left side, and he had surgery on Oct. 1 to repair torn cartilage in his right knee.
Convinced he was fine, the Phillies sent outfielder Michael Bourn, reliever Geoff Geary and minor league third baseman Mike Costanzo, a former first-round draft pick, to Houston for Lidge and utilityman Eric Bruntlett.
But Lidge re-injured his knee when he caught a spike in the mound on his first pitch of batting practice this spring.
He didn't get a chance to make a fielding play Thursday, but feels comfortable that he can get off the mound and cover first base if necessary.
"I wasn't worried about it," he said.
Patterson was Washington's opening-day starter in 2007. But he missed much of the last two seasons because of right forearm problems, limiting him to 15 starts in 2006 and 2007 combined. He had surgery in September to repair a nerve problem.
"We spent spring training evaluating him, and we came to the conclusion it was better to give our younger kids a chance to start," Nationals manager Manny Acta said by telephone from the team's camp in Viera, Fla.
"It's a rehabilitation-in-progress," Acta added, "and we can't afford to do that every five days."
Patterson was called into general manager Jim Bowden's office Thursday afternoon to get the news.
"I knew that it was possible, but it was a little bit of a surprise," the pitcher said. "They didn't feel like I was 100 percent yet."
He, on the other hand, said his arm feels OK.
"I don't have any pain," Patterson said. "I've been able to throw every day."
The 30-year-old Patterson hasn't been able to recapture the form he showed for Washington in 2005, when he was 9-7 with a 3.13 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 198 1-3 innings.
In his final exhibition start for the Nationals, last Sunday against Baltimore, he allowed six runs and eight hits in four innings.
"What we did is best for both the team and John. It gives him enough time to get a job somewhere else," Acta said. "It would have been worse to keep him to the end."
Patterson spent several hours on the phone Thursday, speaking to his agent and getting a sense of what team might be a good fit.
"I've never been released before, so I was wondering, 'What's the next step? What do I do now?"' he said. "We're talking with some teams, waiting to see what will happen. We're waiting to see what offers are out there."
In other news, pitcher Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals agreed to a $15 million, four-year contract, a deal that includes two option years and could be worth up to $36 million.
Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton was hit just above the left elbow by a pitch from Cleveland's Paul Byrd in the first inning and left the game. The team said he had a triceps contusion and manager Joe Maddon said he thinks Upton will be fine.
And a day after being told he was heading back to the bullpen, Joba Chamberlain struck out all three batters he faced for the Yankees.
In other spring training games:
Dodgers 8, White Sox 2
At Phoenix, Rafael Furcal had four hits, including a solo homer, while Brad Penny pitched six strong innings and was chosen as the opening-day starter for Los Angeles.
Yankees 7, Blue Jays 2
At Dunedin, Fla., Ian Kennedy allowed one run and six hits over 4 1-3 innings with four strikeouts for New York. Chamberlain said his arm felt great after throwing nine of 11 pitches for strikes.
Rays 4, Indians 4, 10 innings
At Winter Haven, Fla., Byrd said he tried to throw a sinker away to Upton and missed "by about five feet." Byrd allowed eight hits and four runs over six innings.
Phillies 3, Pirates 0
At Clearwater, Fla., Kyle Kendrick pitched five scoreless innings and Ryan Howard homered for Philadelphia.
Cubs 8, Rockies 6
At Mesa, Ariz., Rich Hill walked six batters in 1 1-3 innings for Chicago. and Franklin Morales gave up six runs five earned and seven hits in five innings for Colorado.
Rangers 8, Diamondbacks 7
At Tucson, Ariz., Texas pitcher Kevin Millwood allowed three hits in five scoreless innings in his first major league start of the spring, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia drove in four runs with an RBI double and three-run homer.
Cardinals 2, Marlins 2, 10 innings
At Jupiter, Fla., Scott Olsen pitched three scoreless innings for Florida after missing two weeks because of shoulder tendinitis.
Angels 8, Giants 1
At Tempe, Ariz., prospect Nick Adenhart, competing for a spot in Los Angeles' injury-riddled rotation, worked six shutout innings.