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).

Starling Marte carted off field after outfield collision

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Pirates center fielder Starling Marte was carted off the field during the eighth inning of Friday’s contest against the Giants. Marte was racing in to field a fly ball from Yangervis Solarte when he collided at full speed with shortstop Erik González. The two were knocked down by the impact and quickly attended to by the Pirates’ staff, who helped Marte sit up on a cart and removed him from the game.

The extent of either player’s injuries, if any, have yet to be revealed. Following the incident, both Marte and González were officially removed from the lineup, with JB Shuck shifting from left to center field, Jung Ho Kang moving over to shortstop, Colin Moran covering third base, and Jason Martin in the left field corner.

The Pirates currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the ninth.