Cliff Lee on track to return to Phillies’ rotation July 21

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From Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg has announced his post-all-star break rotation.

A.J. Burnett will start the first game back Friday in Atlanta. Cole Hamels and Kyle Kendrick will pitch the next two days.

Cliff Lee, making his final rehab start Monday in Clearwater, will start July 21 at home against San Francisco and Roberto Hernandez starts the next night.

Lee has made two minor league rehab starts for the High-A Clearwater Threshers — one sharp and the other a bit shaky. The 35-year-old left-hander has been out since mid-May because of a strained muscle in his pitching elbow.

Lee could theoretically fit in three starts for the Phillies before the July 31 trade deadline and he will be an attractive name on the block if he proves to be fully healthy in those outings. He had a 3.18 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 61/9 K/BB ratio in 68 innings before landing on the disabled list and owns a stellar 2.89 ERA in 814 total innings since signing with Philadelphia. Lee is making $25 million this season, owed another $25 million next season, and carries a $27.5 million vesting option (or $12.5 million buyout) for the 2016 campaign.

Athletics and Mariners to begin the 2019 regular season in Tokyo

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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Oakland A’s and the Seattle Mariners will begin the 2019 regular season in Japan, in the Tokyo Dome.

The series will mark the third time that the A’s will begin their season in Japan, first doing it in 2008 against the Red Sox and then again in 2012 against the Mariners.

This is just the latest of Major League Baseball’s moves to expand the the game internationally. In addition to those previous series in Japan, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks opened their season in Australia in 2014 and the Dodgers and Padres will play a series in Mexico City this May. There has likewise been talk of the Mets playing a series in London, though those details have not yet been worked out. Obviously the World Baseball Classic represents the league’s effort to broaden the global scope of the once national pastime.

Get ready for early morning baseball, folks.