Per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY, Phillies starter Cliff Lee threw a bullpen on Friday evening. The lefty says he feels better, but that something is “still there“, referring to the discomfort in his left elbow. Lee’s goal is to return before the All-Star break, according to Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly.
Lee, 35, posted a 3.18 ERA with a 61/9 K/BB ratio in 68 innings for the Phillies. He was believed to be the Phillies’ best trade chip prior to the injury, but he is earning $25 million both in 2014 and ’15, and has a $27.5 million club option with a $12.5 million buyout, so the Phillies would have had to eat a significant portion of his remaining salary. Now, the Phillies hope he can return and put on a good show leading up to the August 31 waiver deadline or contribute to an improbable playoff run in a weak NL East.
Lee said last September that he plans to retire when his contract runs out.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.
Veteran Omar Infante has spent the overwhelming majority of his career as an infielder, but the Tigers plan to give him some playing time in center field this spring. The Tigers’ center field situation is still murky and adding more versatility would increase Infante’s odds of making the roster.
Infante, 35, signed a minor league deal with the Tigers in December. He played 39 games for the Royals last season, batting .239/.279/.321 in 149 plate appearances while playing second base exclusively. Infante last played in the outfield in 2010 with the Braves, and last played center field specifically in ’09 with the Braves.
The Tigers currently have Mikie Mahtook, Tyler Collins, and JaCoby Jones at the top of their center field depth chart. It is not what one would call “optimal.”