Cliff Lee primed for more wins in 2013

Cliff Lee primed for more wins in 2013
February 25, 2013, 5:00 pm
Share This Post

Spring Training TV Schedule

Feb. 26, Yankees at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN

Feb. 28, Braves at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN

Mar. 3, Blue Jays at Phillies, 1 p.m., CSN

Mar. 5, World Baseball Classic, 1 p.m., CSN

Mar. 6, Nationals at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN

Mar. 7, Twins at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN

Mar. 12, Tigers at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN

Mar. 14, Pirates at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN

Mar. 17, Orioles at Phillies, 1 p.m., CSN

Mar. 19, Yankees at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN

Mar. 22, Braves at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN

Mar. 26, Rays at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN

Mar. 28, Blue Jays at Phillies, 1 p.m., TCN

Mar. 29, Blue Jays at Phillies, 7 p.m., TCN

CLEARWATER, Fla. – A win-loss record can be a superficial measurement of a pitcher’s season. Cliff Lee showed that in 2012. He was a much better pitcher than his 6-9 record, and he knows that.

Still, Lee winces a little when he sees that six in the win column.

It’s a pride thing.

“Yeah,” Lee said when asked Monday if having just six wins last year ticked him off. “That’s definitely not what I would expect out of myself. It was just one of those years. I happened to be the guy that didn’t get that much support and things didn’t go my way quite a bit. It can be frustrating.”

Lee hopes for better fortunes this season.

He began his countdown to the regular season with his first spring start Monday, pitching two quick, scoreless innings against the Detroit Tigers in a 10-1 loss at Bright House Field. Lee did not allow a hit, walked one and struck out two.

The 34-year-old lefty began his offseason throwing program in December. He looked sharp Monday.

“I feel good,” Lee said. “I still need to build up endurance and the ability to go 100 pitches. I could throw a couple innings the first day of camp. But I need to build up innings. That’s why spring training is so long – for starters to build up innings. Position guys and relievers can be ready earlier.”

Lee had an interesting season in 2012. He spent some time on the disabled list and failed to protect a few leads in the first half, but rebounded well in the second half. He recorded a 2.45 ERA in 16 second-half starts to finish in the top 10 in the NL in ERA (3.16), strikeouts (207), innings (211) and WHIP (1.114).

His strikeouts-to-walks ratio in the second half was an eye-popping 109/8. For the season, he had the fewest walks per nine innings (1.19) and best strikeout-to-walks ratio in the majors (7.39).

That’s a pretty good season.

Maybe the best six-win season ever.

One can only imagine what Lee’s record would have been if he hadn’t received the fourth-worst average run support (3.20) in the majors. The Phillies scored three or fewer runs in 20 of his 30 starts.

“I had a stretch where I had four or five really bad starts in a row,” he said. “I wish I could have eliminated that and minimized some of the damage there. Other than that ...”

Lee was pleased with his second half.

“I wasn’t happy with how we ended up as a team, but individually I felt pretty good,” he said. “I felt like I gave the team a chance to win every time I pitched other than a handful of games. That’s really all I can control.”

Lee, who won the 2008 AL Cy Young with Cleveland, is entering the third year of a five-year, $120 million contract. He will likely start the third game of the season behind Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay. Lee came to Philadelphia because he believed the Phillies could win a World Series. Two years into his contract, he’s still looking for that. The Phillies, racked by injuries (especially to Chase Utley and Ryan Howard) and hurt by a slow start, did not make the playoffs in 2012. Lee is motivated to get back there.

“Having Chase and Ryan from the start is going to be huge,” Lee said. “Any time you take the three and four hitters out of any lineup, the team is going to feel that pretty heavy, so having them, and with the additions we’ve made, I like our chances.”

One of those additions is third baseman Michael Young. Lee played with Young in Texas.

“Michael Young was the heart and soul of that team,” Lee said. “They borderline took him for granted there. He’s a great team leader. Like Chase, he never takes an inning off. Having a guy like that makes us that much better.”

There is urgency in Phillies camp to win this year. Utley, Young, Halladay and Carlos Ruiz are all in the final year of their contracts – and they’re getting older. Though Lee is signed through 2015, he could be a trade candidate in July if the Phillies flop.

Lee senses the urgency.

“We’re focused on this year,” he said. “I like the team we have.”