Cliff Lee throws bullpen, says something is “still there” in left elbow

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Per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY, Phillies starter Cliff Lee threw a bullpen on Friday evening. The lefty says he feels better, but that something is “still there“, referring to the discomfort in his left elbow. Lee’s goal is to return before the All-Star break, according to Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly.

Lee, 35, posted a 3.18 ERA with a 61/9 K/BB ratio in 68 innings for the Phillies. He was believed to be the Phillies’ best trade chip prior to the injury, but he is earning $25 million both in 2014 and ’15, and has a $27.5 million club option with a $12.5 million buyout, so the Phillies would have had to eat a significant portion of his remaining salary. Now, the Phillies hope he can return and put on a good show leading up to the August 31 waiver deadline or contribute to an improbable playoff run in a weak NL East.

Lee said last September that he plans to retire when his contract runs out.

Nathan Eovaldi to make 2018 debut for Rays soon

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Rays manager Kevin Cash said that pitcher Nathan Eovaldi will join the starting rotation on Monday or Tuesday to face the Athletics, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Eovaldi’s rehab outing with Triple-A Durham went well, even though he gave up eight runs in four innings.

Eovaldi, 28, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He had arthroscopic surgery in March to remove loose bodies in his elbow. It’s been a long road back. Knowing Eovaldi needed to recover from surgery, the Rays signed him to a one-year, $2 million contract in 2017 that included a $2 million club option for 2018 that they exercised last November.

When Eovaldi last pitched, he ranked among baseball’s hardest throwers, particularly among starters. He averaged 97.1 MPH on his fastball in 2016. Among starters who racked up at least 100 innings that season, only the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard had a higher average velocity (97.9 MPH). It remains to be seen if he still has that velocity after undergoing two procedures on his elbow.

The Rays will be glad to have Eovaldi back. The club has sustained injuries to Jake Faria, Yonny Chirinos, and Jose De Leon.