WASHINGTON -- Phillies fans weren’t in the best of moods when Cliff Lee took the mound Thursday night at Nationals Park.
Perhaps no team in baseball is more in need of a remake than these disappointing Phillies and fans weren’t happy when general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. failed to make a move at the non-waiver trade deadline (see story).
So a bad day in Mudville became even worse when Lee walked off the mound in the third inning motioning that his elbow was sore again.
The lowly Phillies won the game, 10-4, over the NL East-leading Washington Nationals (see Instant Replay), but it hardly mattered because 1) Is anyone really keeping score anymore? and 2) Lee is hurt again and his season is likely over.
Lee missed two months earlier this season with a strained flexor-pronator tendon in his left elbow and it’s difficult to envision him pitching again this season after suffering what the team’s medical staff called a recurrence of the injury.
“It’s pretty much the same thing it was before,” Lee said after the game. “I felt it barely warming up. It came on a little stronger the last six or seven pitches I threw. It was there every throw. I just felt like if I kept throwing something was going to snap. I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen.”
The Phillies have a team physician scheduled to be in Washington this weekend. He will examine Lee. The pitcher will have tests, including and MRI, in Philadelphia early next week.
Lee conceded that his season is probably over.
“If it’s the same thing, it’ll probably be at least as long or a little longer than the other shutdown,” he said.
The Phillies placed Lee on the disabled list and called up reliever Cesar Jimenez. David Buchanan will likely be recalled early next week to take Lee’s spot in the rotation.
This most recent injury ends any chance the Phillies had of trading Lee in a waiver deal in August. It also probably ends any chance the team has of trading Lee this winter. Rival teams will want to see a healthy Lee before they consider a deal and Lee won’t have a chance to prove his health until spring training -- and that’s if the early diagnosis holds up, he does not need surgery and all goes well with his recovery. There is always the possibility that tests could show a more serious elbow injury that could keep Lee out into next season.
“Obviously I’m worried about it,” said Lee, who acknowledged the possibility of surgery. “It came back and that’s not good. I don’t think it’s a larger problem. I think it’s just the original thing. It was never fully gone. I think it’s the same thing. I think it was almost gone and came back.”
Lee is owed about $8.3 million for the remainder of this season and $25 million for next season. The Phillies have more experience than they’d like paying injured pitchers huge salaries. Roy Halladay was paid $20 million to make just 13 starts last season.
The uncertainty surrounding Lee means the Phillies really have just one pitcher guaranteed a spot in next year’s rotation. That’s Cole Hamels. Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez will be free agents and A.J. Burnett could retire or be traded in August.
Though he did not make a move Thursday, GM Amaro promised changes before April. One of his biggest challenges will be putting together a major-league-quality starting rotation and determining if/when Lee will be in it.
The Phillies showed some resilience after Lee exited. All 10 of their runs came after he departed. The team had 17 hits, seven by the top two hitters in the lineup, Ben Revere and Jimmy Rollins. Grady Sizemore knocked in three runs.
The bullpen picked up 6 1/3 innings, some good, some bad. Justin De Fratus pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings and Ken Giles faced four batters and struck out three, including Jayson Werth on a 100-mph fastball to preserve a three-run lead in the seventh.