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.