Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Twins and released after just two years in the minors, Lidle continued to fight his way up the minor-league ladder and finally got his big break when he was acquired by the Mets in a 1996 deal that sent backup catcher Kelly Stinnett to the Brewers. Lidle made an impressive debut (7-2, 3.53) out of the bullpen with New York in 1997, but was selected by Arizona in the 1998 expansion draft. Soon afterward, he began feeling soreness in his elbow; the injury eventually required major surgery and cost him two years of his career. Lidle finally made it back to the majors with Tampa Bay at the end of the 1999 season and pitched decently as a swingman for the miserable Devil Rays in 2000. He was sent to Oakland as part of a four-team deal early in 2001 and pitched surprisingly well for the A’s, holding down the fourth spot in the rotation behind young guns Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito.