More bad news for Cliff Lee.
The left-hander has turned in an 8.28 ERA over his last four starts and is now being scratched from his scheduled Tuesday start due to a strained muscle on the right side of his lower back. This according to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan.
Lee threw off a mound Sunday and showed improvement, but the Rangers don’t want to risk further injury. They have nearly locked up a playoff spot for the first time since 1999 and having a healthy ace in October is crucial to postseason success.
Lee, 32, has posted a 10-8 record, a 3.37 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP in 24 total starts this season. He’s fanned 161 batters in 184.1 innings and has walked only 12.
The Rangers may push him back until the weekend, when they have a big series with the Yankees.
UPDATE: According to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Rangers called off Cliff Lee’s bullpen session after he felt some discomfort in his back while throwing off flat ground.
He’ll play catch again Sunday with the intention of throwing a bullpen session. There’s still a chance he’ll pitch Tuesday, but it doesn’t sound likely, at least according to what Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said.
2:57 PM: Cliff Lee skipped a scheduled bullpen session Saturday, according to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com.
Lee was able to play catch on flat ground under the supervision of Rangers trainer Jamie Reed, but obviously something wasn’t quite right. The left-hander he received an injection for lower back stiffness earlier this week and admitted Friday that his back has been bothering him for “a couple of weeks.”
Gee, really? Lee posted an outstanding 2.63 ERA through his first six starts as a member of the Rangers, but has an 8.28 ERA over his last five outings and has failed to complete six innings in each of his last three.
According to Sullivan, Lee may try to throw again tomorrow, however Rich Harden will likely replace him if he is unable to start Tuesday.
Cliff Lee admitted to the Rangers that he’s been dealing with discomfort in his lower back, and the team announced Wednesday that he was sent home to Texas for an examination and an injection of anti-inflammatories.
Lee has given up 30 runs — 27 earned — over 29 1/3 innings in his last five starts, all of which resulted in Rangers losses. He was especially poor in his last three, pitching a combined 15 1/3 innings in the games and surrendering six homers.
The Rangers said after Tuesday’s game that they’d give Lee an extra day off before his next start, which was to take place Monday against the Jays. That’s up in the air now as the team waits to see how he responds to the injection. The Rangers have Thursday off, so they won’t need a fifth starter again until next Tuesday.
Nine runs of support from the Rangers’ lineup took him off the hook for a loss, but Cliff Lee struggled again last night and didn’t make it out of the fifth inning against the Royals.
Lee allowed seven runs in 4.2 innings–including three unearned runs due to his own throwing error–and coughed up 10 hits while facing only 25 batters. He also served up his 10th homer in 11 starts with the Rangers after giving up a total of just 12 long balls in 25 combined starts with the Phillies and Mariners.
Lee has allowed four or more runs in five straight starts for the first time since 2006 and is now 2-5 with a 4.69 ERA and 72/6 K/BB ratio in 80.2 innings for the Rangers, so while his excellent secondary numbers continue to suggest a return to dominance the impending free agent is running out of time to give Texas a positive return on what was a pretty substantial investment.
Until next month, of course, when no matter how Lee fares down the stretch he can make or break the trade with his playoff performance.
Francisco Liriano held up his end of the bargain in last night’s marquee pitching matchup, taking a shutout into the seventh inning in Texas, but Cliff Lee turned in his third straight ugly start and dropped to 2-5 with a 4.50 ERA in 10 total outings since being traded to the Rangers.
Lee continues to post a ridiculously good strikeout-to-walk ratio, racking up 67 strikeouts compared to just six walks in 76 post-trade innings, but he’s served up nine homers after allowing just five in 104 innings before the move and has been knocked around for 23 runs in his last 24.2 innings.
There’s some bad luck at play here, because someone with a 67/6 K/BB ratio in 76 innings simply shouldn’t have a 4.50 ERA unless they’re giving up tons and tons of long balls, but that doesn’t change how disappointing Lee has been for the Rangers so far. Last night’s struggles were particularly interesting, because the Twins were among the teams in the mix for Lee and now probably feel pretty good about not emptying the farm system for him.
Texas is 3-7 in games started by Lee, although it looks like they’ll still cruise into the playoffs and the success of the trade will ultimately hinge on what happens in October. If he leads them deep into the postseason few people will remember that Lee had a losing record down the stretch. Lee went 2-4 with a 6.13 ERA in his final seven starts for the Phillies last season before going 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in the playoffs.