Cliff Lee is “very close to picking up a ball”

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Finally a dose of hope for injured ace Cliff Lee …

Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg told Matt Gelb at the Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday evening that the left-hander is nearly over the discomfort in his pitching elbow and “very close to picking up a ball.”

Lee has been on the disabled list since May 19 because of a left elbow strain and there is still no timetable for his return to Philly’s active roster. If he makes it back before the July 31 trade deadline, he is sure to be a popular target for contending teams.

The 35-year-old owns a spectacular 2.83 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 8.9 K/9 in 734 1/3 innings since joining Philadelphia prior to the start of the 2011 campaign. He is earning a $25 million salary this season and owed $25 million in 2015 (with a $12.5 million buyout on a $27.5 million vesting option for 2016).

Dellin Betances to open season on injured list

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Yankees GM Brian Cashman said on Tuesday that reliever Dellin Betances will begin the regular season on the injured list due to inflammation and impingement in his right shoulder, the YES Network’s Jack Curry reports. Curry adds that Betances will try throwing again in three to five days.

Betances, who turns 31 years old later this month, has allowed two runs on two hits and two walks with four strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings this spring. He has experienced diminished fastball velocity, which is now explained by his injury. The right-hander is coming off of another excellent season in which he posted a 2.70 ERA with 115 strikeouts and 26 walks across 66 2/3 innings.

Fortunately, the Yankees have more than enough depth in the bullpen to withstand Betances’ absence. Aroldis Chapman, Adam Ottavino, and Zach Britton will handle the late innings and Betances will slot back in whenever he is healthy.