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Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Astros send Lidge to Phillies for Bourn in 5-player trade

Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Philadelphia Phillies became the first team to make a big move at the general managers' meetings, acquiring closer Brad Lidge from Houston along with infielder Eric Bruntlett on Wednesday night.

The Astros received speedy outfielder Michael Bourn, right-hander Geoff Geary and minor league third baseman Mike Costanzo.

The 30-year-old Lidge was 5-3 with 19 saves in 27 chances for the Astros last year after converting 32 of 38 opportunities in 2006. He lost his closer's job to Dan Wheeler one week into the 2007 season but regained the role in mid-June.

"We're getting one of the premier closers in the game," Phillies assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "The marketplace, as we all know, is a little scarce out there as far as pitching. We felt this was one of the best ways for us to really improve."

Lidge, an All-Star in 2005, held batters to a .218 average and averaged 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings this year. He was sidelined from mid-June to mid-July because of a pulled oblique muscle in his left side and had surgery after the season to repair torn cartilage in his right knee.

There have been questions about Lidge's effectiveness since he gave up a long three-run homer to Albert Pujols with two outs in the ninth inning that sent the St. Louis Cardinals to a 5-4 win in Game 5 of the 2005 NL championship series.

"Obviously he got some struggles over the course of the year," new Astros general manager Ed Wade said.

Philadelphia intends to move Brett Myers, who had been the Phillies closer since May, back into the starting rotation. Myers is 54-41 with a 4.42 ERA in 143 career starts, yet Amaro called him his No. 2 starter behind Cole Hamels or possibly even a 1A.

"He was pretty excited about being on the mound when we clinched the division in the last game of the season and certainly did a fine job in that role," Amaro said. "He probably could thrive in that role certainly, but we felt like our best opportunity to improve our rotation was to get him back in there."

Wade has a deep knowledge of the Phillies, having been their general manager for eight years until he was fired after the 2005 season. Amaro also interviewed to become the Astros GM. The pair started talking last week, and the deal fell into place about lunchtime Wednesday.

Before the deal, Wade said he held talks with the agents for Torii Hunter and Aaron Rowand, both free agents.

Bourn, a left-handed hitter, batted .277 as a rookie this year with one homer, six RBIs and 18 steals, seeing limited time as a defensive replacement in an outfield that included Pat Burrell, Rowand and Shane Victorino. Hunter Pence will move to right for Houston.

"We receive a speed center fielder, a top of the order bat, who we think has the ability to be a catalyst for our club for a long time and hopefully set the stage for Hunter Pence and (Lance) Berkman and Carlos Lee to drive him in," Wade said, remembering when Bourn won a race among prospects at the instructional league after the 2004 season. "He's an outstanding athlete."

Houston doesn't necessarily intend to move setup man Chad Qualls into the closer role. Qualls had five saves last season.

"Qualls has done a quality job for us over the last couple of seasons," Wade said. "The numbers that he's put up in the role that he's been in have been outstanding, but whether or not he ends up being the answer on the back end remains to be seen."

Bruntlett hit .246 with 14 RBIs last season, seeing time at shortstop, third base and the outfield.

Geary was 3-2 with a 4.41 ERA with the Phillies. Costano, 24, batted .270 with 27 homers and 86 RBIs at Double-A Reading.

"Geary gives us a middle relief arm, a sinker-slider guy," Wade said.