2/27/2014 5:27 P.M. ET
Lee starts spring slate with positive outlook
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Cliff Lee survived another offseason of trade rumors, which followed yet another July of trade rumors.
Trade speculation has become a biannual tradition for Lee.
Despite his name popping up every few months he still finds himself in a Phillies uniform, still hoping the team can make the postseason and win a World Series. He took his first step toward that goal Thursday afternoon at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, where he made his Grapefruit League debut in a 7-5 loss to the Blue Jays.
"I signed back with the Phillies because I wanted to come here and win, and that's what I intend on doing," said Lee, who allowed two hits, one run and struck out three in two innings. "I don't have a full no-trade clause, so there's nothing I can do about it. I don't have control over it, so there's no sense worrying about it."
The Phillies lost 89 games last season, but have been preaching for months that if they are healthy they will win.
"There's no other way to look at it than, yes," Lee said, asked if the team can win. "You've got to be confident and expect to win. I feel like as a group we're thinking that way. There's no other option. So that's how we've got to see it."
But is the team actually good enough?
"Absolutely," he said. "It has to be. Because that's what we're dealing with."
Lee went 14-8 with a 2.87 ERA in 31 starts last season. He led baseball with a 6.94 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and led baseball averaging just 1.3 walks per nine innings. He might have earned the honor regardless, but with Cole Hamels expected to open the season on the disabled list, Lee assumes he will be the Opening Day starter, although Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said it's too early to announce anything.
"Oh, he's a great candidate for it," Sandberg said.
Lee said after his final start last season that he is running out of time to win a World Series. He is 35, and his arm has only so many pitches left in it. So he hopes the team gets off to a hot start and becomes buyers at the Trade Deadline, not sellers.
He said he isn't concerned a slow start could have him dealt by July 31.
"I think that's looking at it in a negative way," he said. "I think we're positive. We're expecting to win and plan on doing everything we can to ensure that, so that's how I'm looking at it. What happens in the next couple of months, we'll just have to wait and see. As of now I'm expecting to prepare for a full season, go into Texas and win the first game, then win the next one."
Lee makes $25 million each of the next two seasons. The Phillies have a $27.5 million club option for 2016, which automatically vests if he throws at least 400 innings the next two seasons or 200 innings in 2015. If the option does not vest, the Phillies can buy out the deal for $12.5 million.
Lee has been traded so many times -- Expos to Indians in July 2002, Indians to Phillies in July 2009, Phillies to Mariners in Dec. 2010 and Mariners to Rangers in July 2010 -- it is almost hard to believe he will finish the contract in Philadelphia. But that is his hope.
"There's no sense really thinking about it," Lee said. "Honestly, it usually means a good thing. It means you've had success and other teams really want you. So that's a positive."
Martin experiences shoulder discomfort, will see doctor
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Phillies could be running thin on starting pitching depth.
Cole Hamels is expected to open the season on the disabled list, although he might miss only a couple starts. Jonathan Pettibone is behind schedule after needing a cortisone injection Feb. 17 to knock out inflammation in his right shoulder. And Ethan Martin left Thursday's Grapefruit League game against the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium with a right shoulder issue.
He will see a doctor Friday.
"I just felt a little discomfort warming up and after that I didn't have much on it," Martin said.
Martin's fastball averaged 93.2 mph last season, according to FanGraphs. It hit 85 mph Thursday.
"Obviously, I'm concerned, no matter what happens," he said. "It's frustrating. I feel like I worked out and did everything I needed to do to prepare to get here. But who knows, it might be something tomorrow where I'm able to get back up and going. We'll find out in the morning."
"He didn't feel anything when he was actually pitching," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Almost like dead arm symptoms at that point. Pain free, but the velocity was not there."
If Hamels opens the season on the DL, it leaves Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez as healthy starters in the rotation. If Pettibone and Martin cannot be ready by Opening Day, the starting pitching depth falls to Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, B.J. Rosenberg, Jeff Manship, Sean O'Sullivan and David Buchanan.
The Phillies could go with just four starters until Hamels returns, but a lack of starting pitching depth is never a good thing.
"It's a concern to have a couple guys banged up a little bit with the starting pitching," Sandberg said. "Hamels has come along fine. But it's just a concern with Ethan. But we'll just wait and see what turns up tomorrow after he gets checked out."
• Darin Ruf and John Mayberry Jr. each homered Thursday in a 7-5 loss to the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.
The two are competing for bench jobs.
"It was good to see that, a two-run home run from [Ruf] and he hit another ball hard," Sandberg said. "That's a good sign for him."
• The Phillies made two errors in the field and some baserunning mistakes. Sandberg wasn't thrilled.
"A couple of innings they scored some runs we gave them too many outs," he said. "One inning we gave them four outs, another inning we gave them five outs, so that wasn't good. We had some bad baserunning with a couple guys doubled up on soft liners that were easy reads. So some fundamental things added up to some runs."
• Ben Revere went 3-for-4.
• Rosenberg threw two scoreless innings. He struck out one. Mike Stutes and Mario Hollands each threw a scoreless inning. Brad Lincoln, who is a favorite for a bullpen job, allowed one unearned run in the third.
• Jake Diekman, who is a lock to make the bullpen, allowed four hits and two runs in one inning.
"He got ground balls," Sandberg said. "Balls were hit on the ground and we didn't play good defense behind him. We didn't help him out on the defensive side, but he got good movement on the ball. The breaking ball for strikes wasn't there to help him out, but when he had to throw a pitch he got the ground ball."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.