By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
March 16 2015, 11:00 PM EDT.
Cliff Lee knew things were bad with his pitching elbow last week, but he hoped rest would ease his pain. Unfortunately, relief never came.
Late Monday afternoon, the Phillies announced that Lee will try for a third time to non-surgically rehabilitate the tear in his common flexor tendon. He will rest and rehab for two months at his home in Arkansas and probably won't be ready to throw again until early June.
"It's a significant blow to our club right now," said Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. "He was going to be a big piece for us."
The 36-year-old lefthander is entering the final year of his contract with the Phillies. If he were to undergo surgery, which remains an option, he would be sidelined for between six-and-eight months.
"Part of you wants to just stay in there and keep throwing until something snaps and it's completely done," Lee said, "and the other part, you want to make sure you do the smart, right thing for your body physically and for the team and for everything involved.
"You're weighing so many different things. It's definitely frustrating when you know it's basically your body is not allowing you to do it."
Lee made his lone spring start on March 5 and notified the club of discomfort in his elbow the very next day. An MRI exam showed the same tear that limited him to 13 starts last season. Lee elected to try and pitch through the pain, but after several games of catch and a bullpen session late last week he made the decision to halt throwing.
Lee is owed $25 million this season and has a $12.5 million buyout for next year. Electing to avoid surgery allows him a chance to pitch again later this season with the Phillies. If rest and rehab aren't the answer he'll likely have to have surgery before September to have a realistic shot of being ready to pitch in 2016.
"I'll have to cross that bridge when I get there," Lee said. "At this point I'm going to try to get myself back to pitching this year. I'm not looking past that."
With Lee out of the picture the club will likely look to second year righthander David Buchanan or Cuban righthander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez to round out the rotation. Kevin Slowey and Paul Clemens, both non-roster invitees, also have an outside chance to land a spot with the big league club when camp breaks later this month.
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