No pitcher is safe from the elbow injury epidemic.
According to CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury, Phillies ace Cliff Lee underwent an MRI on his left elbow Tuesday after complaining of discomfort. Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer says the veteran ace has been pitching with a flexor pronator strain for three weeks, and now there might be further damage.
Lee tossed 6 2/3 solid innings against the Reds in his last turn through the Phillies’ starting rotation and owns a cool 3.18 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 68 total innings this season. He has never had any major elbow or shoulder issues.
Lee is making a $25 million salary this year and he’s owed another $25 million next year, so Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery (and its 12-15 month recovery process) would be a crushing blow for the Phillies.
On Opening Day, Cliff Lee gave up eight runs on 11 hits in five innings. That’s not a Cliff Lee anyone is used to seeing. I actually got asked on a radio show if Cliff Lee is on the decline. After one start! Well, Cliff Lee has answered that question. Here is his line for his last four:
30 IP, 33 H, 37K, 1 BB, 1.20 ERA
That’s a lot of hits, of course, but when you strike out dudes like crazy and don’t walk anyone you can get away with that. And having watched all of his start last Wednesday and part of his start last night, it’s clear that Lee’s command and control is no different than it’s always been. Which is to say spectacular. There is no one in the game who is able to put the ball where he wants to put it like Cliff Lee can.
Last night he tied the Dodgers up in knots. He struck out ten in eight shutout innings. He struck out 13 Braves in that game last Wednesday and, even if he took the loss thanks to no run support, he was dominant.
Some things change. Some things don’t. Cliff Lee looking amazing is one of those things that doesn’t.
Cliff Lee just knows how to win.
While Lee was touched up for eight runs over just five innings in his Opening Day start this afternoon, he was still the winning pitcher as the Phillies pounded the Rangers 14-10 at Globe Life Park. It was the most runs the Phillies had scored in a season opener since 1900.
Lee was given an early 6-0 lead as the Phillies beat up on Tanner Scheppers, who was making his first career start. The big blow was a grand slam from Jimmy Rollins in the top of the second inning. However, Lee quickly gave up the lead by allowing four runs in the bottom of the second inning and three more in the third.
The Phillies eventually took the lead back for good in the fifth inning when John Mayberry, Jr. delivered a pinch-hit two-run double against left-hander Pedro Figueroa. They tacked on four more in the sixth, including a solo home run from offseason acquisition Marlon Byrd, and one run in the eighth on a solo homer from Cody Asche.
This was just the fourth time in Lee’s career that he had allowed eight or more runs in a start. He didn’t allow more than five runs in any of his starts last season. The veteran southpaw the first pitcher to allow at least eight earned runs in a start and still win since the Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson did it last May 17 against the Orioles. If you’ll recall, Lee didn’t get his first win July 4 in 2012 despite pitching pretty well, which tells you all you need to know about how fickle this statistic can be at times. Still, he’ll gladly take the W to start the year.
From MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince on Twitter:
I’m not sure my reaction to this has an official onomatopoeia.
If someone — anyone — has a clue what the Phillies’ grand plan is, I’d love to hear it. I’m sure anyone would:
I suppose that you could get a lot of building blocks for those guys. But if you’re building, why did you sign Carlos Ruiz and Marlon Byrd and make those other short-term, win-now moves they’ve made so far this offseason?
Seriously: what the heck is Ruben Amaro doing?