Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee threw 60 pitches in a three-inning simulated game on Tuesday afternoon and he woke up Wednesday morning without any abnormal physical issues. So he’s moving on to the next big step in his recovery from a left elbow strain.
MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports that Lee has been cleared to begin a minor league rehab assignment Sunday with the High-A Clearwater Threshers. This is just speculation, but the veteran southpaw will likely make a total of three rehab starts in the minors before rejoining the Philadelphia rotation shortly after the All-Star break.
Lee will be an attractive name around the July 31 trade deadline if he’s able to prove his health this month. The 35-year-old owns a stellar 2.83 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 728 strikeouts in 734 1/3 innings with the Phillies.
He is making a $25 million salary this season, owed another $25 million salary next season, and carries a $27.5 million vesting option (or $12.5 million buyout) for the 2016 campaign.
From beat writer Todd Zolecki of MLB.com …
Cliff Lee continues to recover from his strained left elbow, taking another step forward today at Marlins Park.
He threw 60 pitches in a three-inning simulated game.
“We’re on pace,” Lee said.
The veteran southpaw is hoping that his next step is going to be a minor league rehab start. A decision on that will not be made until Lee is reevaluated by team doctors on Wednesday morning. “I’ve been feeling better every day,” he said Tuesday.
Lee had a 3.18 ERA and 61/9 K/BB ratio in 68 innings before injuring his left elbow in May. If he makes it back before the July 31 trade deadline and proves his health, he’ll be a big target for contending teams.
UPDATE, 6:25 p.m. ET: A followup from CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury …
Cliff Lee has now been sidelined for over a month with a flexor strain in his throwing elbow. While there are still some important hurdles to cross, the Phillies are beginning to map out a plan for his return.
According to Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com, Lee is scheduled to throw his third bullpen session tomorrow. It will be an “up-and-down” session to essentially get him back in the groove of downtime between innings. If all goes well, he’ll progress to a simulated game this Saturday. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg indicated that the next step could be a minor league rehab assignment.
“I don’t know if it’s one or two [rehab starts], but I would think it would be something more than a simulated game,” Sandberg said.
“He’s progressing fine, passing all of the tests. His first bullpen was quality with location and stuff, and rebounding from it the next day with the way he felt. All positive.”
If Lee stays on schedule and makes a pair of rehab starts, he could potentially be activated on July 13 against the Nationals. That’s the final day before the All-Star break. Of course, they could always give him a little extra time and bring him back for the start of the second half on July 18 against the Braves. Either way, he’ll only have a brief window to prove his health and effectiveness leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Lee, 35, had a 3.18 ERA and 61/9 K/BB ratio in 68 innings over 10 starts prior to hitting the disabled list. He’s owed $25 million in each of the next two seasons.
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.
CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury has the story …
Cliff Lee says he has made excellent strides in his recovery from an elbow strain over the last few days. The left-hander was able throw from a bullpen mound Tuesday for the first time since going on the disabled list and he was pleased with the results.
“It feels real good,” Lee, who threw 20 fastballs but no breaking pitches, told Salisbury. “I was letting it go pretty hard, pretty much max effort. … I can tell there’s something there, but there’s nothing painful of uncomfortable.”
The veteran left-hander is aiming to return to the Phillies’ starting rotation before the July 14-17 All-Star break. If he achieves that goal and then shows that he is fully healthy, he’ll be a big time target for contending teams leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.
Lee, 35, owns a 2.83 ERA (136 ERA+) in 103 starts since joining Philadelphia in 2011.
He is making $25 million this season and is owed another $25 million next season.