Cliff Lee undergoes MRI on left elbow

Cliff Lee undergoes MRI on left elbow
May 20, 2014, 6:00 pm
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Cliff Lee has pitched 734 1/3 innings since returning to the Phillies prior to the 2011 season. (USA Today Images)

Update: 7:05 p.m.

MIAMI -- This is not good news for the Phillies on a couple of fronts.

Cliff Lee has a tender elbow. He required an MRI exam Tuesday in Philadelphia. Results were not immediately known.

“He’s battled some elbow tenderness for about three weeks,” general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said before Tuesday night’s game against the Marlins. “He’s been able to pitch through it. He felt a little more uncomfortable in his last couple of innings Sunday. He saw Dr. [Michael] Ciccotti and Dr. Ciccotti felt it was alarming enough to do an MRI. We’re awaiting the results.”

Lee’s fastball velocity has been down in recent starts. Amaro said the pitcher had recently been treated with anti-inflammatory medicine.

Amaro said Lee was feeling discomfort on the inner aspect of his elbow, the area of the flexor-pronator tendon.

Amaro was asked if he was alarmed.

“Yeah,” he said. “Any time something happens with a starting pitcher you are.”

Amaro said Lee remains tentatively scheduled to start on Saturday at home against the Dodgers. That, of course, could change when the Phillies get the MRI results.

If Lee can’t make his start Saturday, the Phillies may have to reach down to Triple A for David Buchanan, a spring-training standout. The Phils have several veteran starters at Triple A, as well, including Greg Smith, Barry Enright and Sean O’Sullivan. Jeff Manship, currently pitching out of the Phillies' bullpen, could be another possibility. Jonathan Pettibone would not be a candidate. He is battling more shoulder problems and is scheduled to be examined by orthopedist James Andrews on Wednesday. Pettibone could be headed for surgery.

Lee, who turns 36 in August, is 4-4 with a 3.18 ERA in 10 starts this season. He has pitched 68 innings and allowed 78 hits, the most in the majors entering Tuesday.

Lee has made 321 big-league starts and never been on the disabled list with an arm problem.

Now? The Phillies hold their breath. Amaro said the MRI results could be available later Tuesday night.

Lee is crucial to the Phillies' chances of contending this season. If the Phils fall out of the race, he could be a trade chip in a rebuilding effort, so this injury could affect the team on two fronts.

Lee is making $25 million this season. He is signed for $25 million next season and has a vesting option for 2016. The option includes a $12.5 million buyout, so he is guaranteed $37.5 million after this season.

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