Phillies fans in Clearwater, Florida were treated to a Cliff Lee rehab appearance last night, or at least half of one. The Philadelphia Phillies’ injured ace pitched two innings of one hit, no walk, two strikeout ball before the tarp came on the field.
Lee threw only 24 pitches, and afterward said that the split was 22 fastballs, and 2 cutters. More important than the brief dominance displayed is that he experienced no discomfort, and said he felt fine in his post-game press conference. Really, the only way this could have gone poorly was if he was pulled after facing three batters with elbow pain.
It was the All-Star’s first competitive outing since being placed on the DL with soreness on May 20. Particularly given the premature ending to the outing, Lee is likely to need at least one more rehab start before returning to the majors. A lot of it depends on how his arm feels after that next start, as well.
Lee’s return before the trade deadline is of heightened importance due to the suddenly shrunken number of top starting pitchers on the market. The Oakland A’s were not one of the most talked about teams, as far as pitching upgrades were concerned, before swiping both of the Chicago Cubs’ demanded arms on July 4.
With Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija off the table to the same team, any team in need of pitching is likely to at least make a few phone calls to Ruben Amaro. The AL East is the division most-needing of pitching from top to bottom, but top available starter David Price should be relatively unlikely to move within the Rays’ division.
Beyond him, the three strongest options come in the form of Cole Hamels, A.J. Burnett, and a potentially healthy Cliff Lee (all on the Phillies). Kyle Kendrick is another cheap, expiring option that the team could try to move to a budget-constrained team.
Ian Kennedy of the Padres, and John Danks of the White Sox, are the two most discussed options outside of the those names. The Yankees, Orioles, Blue Jays, Pirates, Mariners, and Cardinals have all had interest in upgrading their rotations before July 31.
In 2014, Lee has pitched 68.0 innings in 10 starts, to a 2.67 FIP and 3.18 ERA. In last night’s shortened high-A game, top prospect J.P. Crawford hit his third HR of his three weeks with the team.