Brad Lidge was the incumbent closer coming into the 2011 season. He is basically working in a contract year, given that the Phillies hold a team option for 2012. Expectations were that he would hold down the closer role and prove to the Phillies that his option was worth picking up. His season never really got started, as he ended up on the disabled list before he even threw a pitch in a regular season game.
Next came Jose Contreras, the 39-year-old Cuban who briefly revitalized his career due to this opportunity. Contreras held down the closer's role for the first part of the season. He converted all five of his save opportunities to start the year. He landed on the DL only three weeks into the season. He came back in late May in a setup role, only to go back on the DL on June 20 for another four to six weeks
The revolving door that is the Phillies closer situation continued when Ryan Madson stepped in for Contreras in late April. Madson was spectacular, posting a 2.03 ERA in 31 games this season. He has converted 15 of his 16 save opportunities, quieting the critics who claimed he doesn't have the mental makeup that it takes to get those last three outs. The Phillies' best closer in 2011 has just been placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 19, with a right hand contusion.
Luckily this isn't expected to be a long-term issue, though it does raise some questions for the immediate future, especially with the best-hitting team in baseball coming to Citizens Bank Park.
Which reliever will get a crack at closing games now? The obvious choice would a closer by committee, using Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo, depending on the situation. This is dangerous, because now the Phillies' two best healthy bullpen arms will have to be saved for the ninth inning.
Who pitches the seventh and eighth inning? The hope here is that the Phillies starters will make this question meaningless by going deep into games. That can be expected from Lee, Halladay and Hamels, but not from Worley or Kendrick.
When will the curse of the Phillies closer end? Hopefully the curse has claimed its last victim. The Phillies can't afford to keep losing closers like this. Bullpen players like their roles defined, and when one player goes down, it shakes up the entire bullpen. This is now the third closer to end up on the DL; the bullpen has been in a state of flux.