Former Notre Dame ace pitcher Brad Lidge could soon find himself closing games for Team USA at the World Baseball Classic.

Pro Baseball Update: Lidge, Astros Slide Strong Into Postseason

Oct. 6, 2004

By Pete LaFleur

The past few weeks have seen several former Notre Dame baseball standouts shine on the professional level – none more so than Houston Astros closer Brad Lidge, whose devastating slider has helped him become one of the most feared relievers in the Major Leagues. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound righthander set a National League record for strikeouts by a reliever (157) in the 2004 regular season, including a final blitz that saw him strike out better than one out of every two batters he faced (37 of 70) during Houston’s final 23-7 sprint to the National League wild card.

The Astros open the postseason today in Atlanta vs. the Braves (4:00 p.m. EDT on ESPN), with Game 2 slated for Thursday (4:00, ESPN). The best-of-5 series continues Saturday in Houston (time and TV are TBA), with Game 4 to be played on Sunday if necessary and Game 5 on Monday.

Lidge – one of 17 former Irish players currently active in professional baseball (full updates below) – finished third in the 2003 NL rookie-of-the-year balloting, when he combined with Octavio Dotel and then-closer Billy Wagner to form Houston’s potent three-pronged late-inning relief crew. Wagner was traded to Philadelphia in the offseason and Dotel was dealt to Oakland earlier this season, opening the door for Lidge’s emergence as one of the most dominant closers in the big leagues.

Lidge’s impressive 2004 season includes a 1.90 ERA in 80 relief appearances, with 29 saves in 33 chances. He owns a 5.2 K-to-walk ratio (157/30) and has allowed just 57 hits for a .174 opponent batting average (plus an equally-low .254 opponent on-base pct.). His nine-inning averages include 14.9 Ks, 2.9 walks and 5.4 hits.

Lidge – a native of Englewood, Colo., and product of the Cherry Creek High School athletic program that also has produced current ND baseball player Matt Bransfield, plus former Irish standouts such as golfer Todd Vernon and tennis player Alicia Salas – bested the NL reliever strikeout record of 153 (set by Dick Selma of the Phillies, in 1970) while playing a key role in Houston’s push to the wild card that included 27 wins in its final 37 games (capped by a seven-game winning streak). In a 2-1 win over the potent St. Louis Cardinals on Sept. 28, Lidge inherited runners on the corners in the 8th but struck out Albert Pujols on four straight sliders. He then retired three more top hitters in order (Jim Edmonds, Larry Walker and Edgar Renteria) to complete the big save.


Brad Lidge struck out 93 batters in 81 innings and posted an 8-2 record as a Notre Dame junior en route to 1998 BIG EAST pitcher-of-the-year honors before becoming the first-round pick of the Houston Astros (photo by Pete LaFleur).



Then, on the last day of the season, Lidge took the mound with the tying run on base in the 8th and closed with four straight strikeouts to beat the Colorado Rockies and clinch the wild card.

Lidge – the 1998 BIG EAST Conference pitcher of the year and Houston’s first-round pick in ’98 – is poised to follow two-time World Series champion Craig Counsell as the latest Notre Dame product to shine in the MLB postseason (Counsell was a key member of the 1997 Florida Marlins and 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks teams that won the World Series title).

Notre Dame has sent 40 players on to professional baseball during the 10-year tenure of head coach Paul Mainieri, with the program’s 17 active pro players including nine who have joined the pro ranks during the last four years.

The former Notre Dame players playing on various levels of pro baseball in 2004 included major leaguers Lidge, Counsell and Aaron Heilman (New York Mets) , plus four others on triple-A rosters (Chris Michalak, Christian Parker, Brant Ust and Steve Stanley). Several of the former ND players turned in impressive 2004 professional seasons – led by Brian Stavisky earning MVP honors in the California League and Matt Macri’s hot start as a Northwest League all-star. Macri and Javi Sanchez have been sent on to fall instructional league while Danny Tamayo is one of a handful of Kansas City Royals prospects who have been assigned to the Arizona Fall League.

See the following link for a recent MLB feature story on Lidge:

Here’s a helpful website link for tracking minor-league players:

Notre Dame 2004 Pro Baseball Update (Oct. 6, 2004):

Brad Lidge (RHP; Houston Astros) – has assumed closer role with Astros while continuing impressive three-year start to his major league career … set National League record for strikeouts by a reliever (157), helping Astros earn wild-card spot in 2004 postseason … enters series vs. Atlanta Braves with 1.90 ERA in ’04 while converting 29 of 33 save opportunities in 80 appearances … his other ’04 stats include a 6-5 record, 30 walks and 57 hits allowed (.174 opp. batting avg., .155 by RH hitters) in 94.2 IP, with a 5.2 K-to-BB ratio and 9-inning averages of 14.9 Ks, 2.9 BB and 5.4 H (also 6 hit batters, 1 balk, 3 wild pitches, 50 groundouts, 16 holds, 44 games closed, 8 HR allowed, 2-of-7 opp. stolen bases, 0.92 walks/hits per IP, .290 opp. slug pct., .254 opp. on-base, 15.6 pitches per IP) … his MLB career stats in three seasons with the Astros are as follows: 2.87, 13-8, 164 GP/1 GS, 30 SV (39 opp.), 188.1 IP, 129 H, 14 HR, 13 HB, 266 Ks, 81 BB, .195 opp. avg., 9-of-20 opp. SB, 123 GO, 1.12 BB/H per IP, 44 HOLD, 2.83 K/BB, 3.9 BB/9 IP, 12.7 K/9 IP, 6.2 H/9 IP, 2 BK, 7 WP, .313 SLUG, .293 OB.


Craig Counsell



Craig Counsell (IF; Milwaukee Brewers) – just completed his 10th Major League season while playing for his home-state team (after earlier stints with Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks) … hit .241 (114-for-473) in 140 games played, with 59 runs scored, 2 home runs, 5 triples, 19 doubles and 23 RBI … his other ’04 stats included 59 walks, 88 Ks, 17-of-21 SBs, .330 on-base, .315 slugging and a .983 fielding pct. (9 Es) while playing mostly shortstop … his career stats in 770 games are as follows: .262 (653-for-2,496), 348 R, 18 HR, 20 3B, 112 2B, 211 RBI, 310 BB, 354 Ks, 49-of-74 SBs, .345 OB, .344 slug., .984 fielding and 44 Es.


Aaron Heilman.



Aaron Heilman (RHP; New York Mets) – made to returns to the big-league level in 2004, with 1-3 record and 5.46 ERA in 5 total starts … his other ’04 stats with the Mets included 22 Ks, 13 BB and 27 hits allowed in 28.0 IP (43 GO, .257 opp. avg.) … was workhorse for triple-A Norfolk Tides staff in ’04 … overcame rough start to ’04 season en route to 4.33 overall ERA with Tides (7-10, 26 GS, CG, 151.2 IP, 156 H/.269, 15 HR, 123 Ks, 66 BB, 5 WP) … also pitched for Mets in final month of 2003 season. .


Chris Michalak



Chris Michalak (LHP; Marlins triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes, Pacific Coast League) – 13th-year pro player who has been member of several organizations (including big-league stints with Diamondbacks, Rangers and Blue Jays) as primarily a lefthanded relief ace … opened ’04 season in other triple-A league (International), with Indianapolis Indians (a Brewers affiliate) … his stats with Indianapolis were as follows: 5.18, 2-6, 37 GP, 14 GF, SV, 48.2 IP, 65 H (.308 opp. avg.), 3 HR, 10 HB, 18 BB, 29 Ks, 2 WP, 2 BK (0-for-2 batting, BB, K) … went on to play in PCL with Isotopes: 6.35, 17 GP/1 GS, 4 GF, 34.0 IP, 44 H/.317, 9 HR, HB, 20 BB, 15 Ks, WP, 2 BK … team website:


Brant Ust



Brant Ust (IF; Tigers triple-A Toledo Mud Hens, International League) – hit .254 with 10 home runs and 41 RBI in 111 GP (103-for-406, 47 R, 2 3B, 17 2B, 2 SAC, 3 HBP, 15 BB, 97 Ks, 3-6 SB, 7 GDP, .329 slug, .283 OB, .612 OBS) … made starts all over the field (43 at 3B, 23 at 2B, 21 in OF, 16 at SS, 9 at 1B) with 17 Es … team website:


Christian Parker



Christian Parker (RHP; Expos triple-A Edmonton Trappers, Pacific Coast League) – returned to the organization that drafted him in 1996 (he later played several years in Yankees organization) … placed on the DL early in season, with his ’04 stats limited to 29 innings (8.07, 1-3, 8 GP/7 GS, 46 H/.393, 4 HR, 2 SAC, 3 SF, 13 BB, 17 Ks, 3 WP, BK (3-for-6 batting, 3 R, HR, 3 RBI, K) … team website:


Steve Stanley



Steve Stanley (OF; A’s double-A Midland Rockhounds, Texas League) – started season with triple-A Sacramento River Cats before tearing it up in Midland and returning to Sacramento for playoff series … ended double-A season with 6-for-6 game and 2-for-5 effort for .419 batting avg. (62-for-148) in 36 games played … his other stats in Midland: 32 R, 3 3B, 7 2B, 3 SAC, HBP, 20 BB, 20 Ks, 6-11 SB, .507 slug, .480 OB, .987 OBS, 1E with 36 starts in OF … helped sweep Iowa Cubs in triple-A playoff series (3-0), batting 3-for-5 in the first game before tying game-2 with 2-out hit in 9th (he then scored the gamewinning run in the 10th) … his regular-season stats with Sacramento were as follows: .227, 74 GP, 50-for-220, 42 R, 3 HR, 2 3B, 4 2B, 24 RBI, 8 SAC, 3 SF, 33 BB, 30 Ks, 9-11 SB, 2 GDP, .305 slug., .324 OB, 65 starts in OF, 4 Es, team .278 batting avg., team 1st in southern division at 61-43) … team website:

Danny Tamayo (RHP; Royals double-A Wichita Wranglers, Texas League) – received prestigious assignment to Arizona Fall League after strong season in Wichita … joined his classmate Heilman in battling back from slow start to ’04 season, finishing with 3.92 ERA, 12-7 record and 3.4 K-to-walk ratio (25 GS, 142.1 IP, 165 H/.301, 15 HR, 8 HB, 36 BB, 123 Ks, 7 WP) … also made three ’04 starts with Wilmington (Del.) Blue Hens in Carolina League (9.53, 0-1, 11.1 IP, 16 H/.364, HR, 2 HB, 5 BB, 10 Ks, WP) … team website:


Brian Stavisky



Brian Stavisky (OF/1B; A’s advanced-A Modesto A’s, California League) – named league MVP after leading league in batting avg. (.343) and total bases (282) while ranking 2nd in slugging pct. (.550), doubles (39) and OBS (.963), 3rd in on-base (.413), 6th in home runs (19) and 7th in RBI (83) … his Modesto teammate jason Perry led the league in slugging (.686) and on-base (.431) but played just 83 games (with 325 ABs, compared to Stavisky’s 130 GP and 513 ABs) … another Modesto player, 3B Isaac Garcia, led the league with 41 doubles … San Jose OF Fred Lewis (.424) was 2nd on the league on-base charts … Stavisky’s other ’04 stats included 176 hits in 513 ABs, 130 GP, 54 BB, 89 Ks, 6-10 SB, 7 GDP, 108 R, 5 3B, 11 HBP … made 90 starts in OF, 34 at 1B … team won league title, with Modesto’s skipper and former big-leaguer Von Hayes named the California League coach of the year … team website:


Paul O’Toole



Paul O’Toole (C/OF/1B; Cubs double-A West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx, Southern League) – hit .257 with 4 HR and 20 RBI in 63 GP (47-for-183, 22 R, 3B, 9 2B, 5 SAC, 2 HBP, 16 BB, 41 Ks, 5-7 SBs, 4 GDP, .383 slug., .320 OB, .703 OBS, 45 starts at C, 12 at OF, 1 at 1B, 4 Es) … team website:


J.P. Gagne



J.P. Gagne (Rockies single-A Tri-City Dust Devils, Northwest League) – played alongside his former ND teammate Matt Macri … posted a 4.29 ERA and 4-1 record in 24 appearances with Tri-City (5 GF, 50.1 IP, 49 H/.246, 2 HR, 16 BB, 47 Ks, 6 WP) … also made 10 appearances in ’04 with Ashville Tourists of South Atlantic League (14.21, 0-3, 10 GP, 12.2 IP, 29 H/.433, 5 HR, 4 BB, 9 Ks, WP) … team website:

Ryan Kalita (Cubs single-A Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League) – earlier pitched with Boise Hawks in same league (Northwest) as his ND classmate J.P. Gagne, posting 6.00 ERA in 5 GP (1-0, GF, 6 IP, 8 H/.308, 5 Ks, BB, WP) … made 18 relief appearances with Lansing (2.67, 1-3, 8 GF, SV, 33.2 IP, 30 H/.229, 8 BB, 23 Ks, 2 WP, 2 HB) … team website:

Matt Macri (Rockies single-A Tri-City Dust Devils, Northwest League) – rode momentum from All-America season at Notre Dame by compiling Northwest League all-star season … finished 2nd in league with .569 slugging pct. (behind former Stanford star Chris Carter’s .576 with Yakima) … his .979 OBS (combined on-base and slugging) also was 2nd in the league to Carter’s 1.002 … ended up 3rd on league batting charts at .333 (behind Brian Horwitz’s .347 with Salem Keizer and Carter’s .335), also ranking 7th in doubles (17) and 14th in RBI (43) … his other stats included 65 hits in 195 ABs over 62 games, 33 R, 7 HR, 4 3B, 5 HBP, 23 BB, 52 Ks, .410 OB, 49 starts at 3B and 8 Es … played alongside his former ND teammate J.P. Gagne … team website:


Matt Macri



Chris Niesel (Indians single-A Lake County Captains, South Atlantic League) – quickly promoted from Mahoning Valley Scrappers, sliding west across state to Eastake, Ohio, as member of Lake County Captains … his start with Scrappers included 2.30 ERA and 2-0 record in 5 GP/4 GS (27.1 IP, 13 H/.137, 2 HR, HB, 4 BB, 20 Ks, WP) … went on for impressive stretch of 5 starts with Lake County, striking out 23 batters in 20 innings while walking just one (1-1, 5.85, .293 opp. avg., 24 H, 4 HR, HB, BK) … former ND baseball student manager Katie Furman (’02) is director of community relations for the Lake County Captains … team website:

Steve Sollmann (Brewers single-A Helena Brewers, Pioneer League) – hit .364 with 39 RBI in 72 GP (99-for-272, 59 R, HR, 2 3B, 12 2B, 8 SAC, 13 HBP, 52 BB, 20 Ks, 23-31 SB, 4 GDP, .434 slug., .487 OB, .921 OBS, 72 starts at 2B, 9 Es) … team website:

Javi Sanchez (Twins single-A Elizabethton Twins, Appalachian League) – invited to fall instructional league after solid debut season, batting .271 in 43 GP (39-for-144, 19 R, 2 HR, 2 3B, 8 2B, 17 RBI, 5 HBP, 16 BB, 20 Ks, 5 HBP, .396 slug., .364 OB, .760 OBS, 38 starts at C, 3 Es, 2 GDP) … team website:

Grant Johnson (Chicago Cubs draftee/signee) – signed as 2nd-round pick of Chicago Cubs late in the summer of 2004 … set to begin his pro career in 2005.