Heard This: Cliff Lee has concerns about Texas

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Over the past few weeks we’ve heard all manner of things about what may or may not motivate Cliff Lee.  His wife hates New York. He’s a country boy who wants to stay near Arkansas. Yankee fans are rude, rude rude!

I think this kind of thing is somewhat meaningless — the contract offers are ultimately going to decide where he goes — but let’s add one more non-monetary consideration to the pile:  a little birdie tells me that Lee was not terribly happy in Texas, and that he is particularly concerned about how his body would hold up pitching an entire season in the North Texas heat.

It’s not clear if his unhappiness in Texas has to do specifically with the heat, if it also involves discombobulation over the fact that he was traded there in mid-season or if he just hates the place. And yeah, that’s second hand info. And yeah, I’m sure Lee and his agent will deny because they have absolutely zero interest in limiting their market right now, but it is what I’m hearing and you can place as much weight on it as you’d like.

But assuming Lee is concerned about the heat: is it a rational concern?  I don’t have all of his box scores sitting in a database now in order to graph them against game time temperature, but just eyeballing it, I see that for his career he’s 6-5 with a 5.07 ERA in Arlington (of course he’s 2-2 with a 5.91 in the Bronx).  He made eight regular season starts there in 2010, seven with the Rangers, one with the Mariners. He was shelled in two of them and was his Cliff Lee-like-self in the other six. On those two bad days the game time temperature was 85 and 91 degrees.  Overall, he doesn’t show a big first half/second half split. His ERA is a bit higher in the second half but he strikes more guys out.  If he’s concerned about wearing down over the course of a long hot season in Texas, there certainly isn’t a ton of empirical evidence to support it. He’s a good pitcher in the heat. He’s a good pitcher in the cold. He’d probably be a good pitcher in a biodome planted on the lunar surface.

But we’re not dealing with empirical evidence here. We’re dealing with the notion — a notion gossiped my way, but which purports to reflects Lee’s feelings on the matter — that he is worried about pitching in the hot Texas weather over the course of a season.  It won’t make a difference if the Yankees do what everyone expects them to do and substantially outbid the Rangers.  But if it’s close?  This may just be something that pushes Lee towards Gotham.

There was another miscommunication between the Phillies and Pat Neshek

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Back in June 2017, then-manager of the Phillies Pete Mackanin and reliever Pat Neshek had some miscommunication. In a series against the Cardinals, Neshek worked a five-pitch eighth inning and it was believed he would come back out for the ninth inning, but he never did. Mackanin said Neshek said he didn’t want to pitch another inning. Neshek said he was never asked. There was also some miscommunication the game prior. Neshek thought he had the day off; Mackanin said Neshek said he wasn’t available to pitch.

Mackanin is no longer the Phillies’ manager, but the miscommunication between Neshek and the team apparently persist. Neshek was notably absent during the Phillies’ hard-fought 5-4 win over the Cubs on Monday night. The game featured a struggling Seranthony Domínguez pitching two innings, yielding three crucial runs in his second inning of work.

Manager Gabe Kapler called the bullpen and instructed Neshek to begin warming up to prepare to face Albert Almora, Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Kapler rang the bullpen after Domínguez walked Jason Heyward, who batted ahead of Almora. Neshek wasn’t warmed up yet. Domínguez was able to retire Almora on a sacrifice bunt, which was reviewed and gave Neshek some extra time to get ready. He was ready for the next batter, Daniel Descalso, but at this point Kapler no longer wanted to bring Neshek into the game. Descalso lined a triple to left-center field, scoring two runs and came home himself when shortstop Jean Segura‘s throw caromed off of his foot out of play.

Recounting the situation, Neshek said, “I got on the mound and threw two pitches. [Kapler] said, ‘Is he ready?’ And I said, ‘No. I’m not ready yet. I’ve thrown two pitches.” Neshek was asked how long it takes him to get ready. The veteran said, “A minute. Not 20 seconds. I’m, like, the best in the league at getting ready. My whole career has been coming in like that.”

The Phillies were able to eke out a 5-4 win. Had they lost the game, Kapler and Neshek would likely have been under the microscope for the awkward situation leading to a crushing defeat. Kapler drew plenty of criticism over his bullpen management last year in his rookie managerial season. That included bringing in lefty reliever Hoby Milner into a game in which he hadn’t yet warmed up.

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the manager who struggled with bullpen management last year nearly mucked up a win last night, and maybe it’s just a coincidence that a reliever who’s had prior issues with communication had another communication mix-up. Maybe it’s not. It’s worth noting that the Phillies needed three innings from the bullpen to protect a 2-1 lead over the Cubs on Tuesday. Kapler called on rookie Edgar Garcia for two outs, lefty José Álvarez for four, and then brought in Juan Nicasio to close things out in the ninth. No Neshek, even as Nicasio got into trouble. Nicasio would surrender the tying and go-ahead runs, resulting in a deflating 3-2 loss.