Cliff Lee is almost ready to make the next step in rehab from elbow injury

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Cliff Lee has now been sidelined for over a month with a flexor strain in his throwing elbow. While there are still some important hurdles to cross, the Phillies are beginning to map out a plan for his return.

According to Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com, Lee is scheduled to throw his third bullpen session tomorrow. It will be an “up-and-down” session to essentially get him back in the groove of downtime between innings. If all goes well, he’ll progress to a simulated game this Saturday. Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg indicated that the next step could be a minor league rehab assignment.

“I don’t know if it’s one or two [rehab starts], but I would think it would be something more than a simulated game,” Sandberg said.

“He’s progressing fine, passing all of the tests. His first bullpen was quality with location and stuff, and rebounding from it the next day with the way he felt. All positive.”

If Lee stays on schedule and makes a pair of rehab starts, he could potentially be activated on July 13 against the Nationals. That’s the final day before the All-Star break. Of course, they could always give him a little extra time and bring him back for the start of the second half on July 18 against the Braves. Either way, he’ll only have a brief window to prove his health and effectiveness leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

Lee, 35, had a 3.18 ERA and 61/9 K/BB ratio in 68 innings over 10 starts prior to hitting the disabled list. He’s owed $25 million in each of the next two seasons.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.