Lee addresses strain in side: 'I feel fine'

Pitching coach Rich Dubee watches Cliff Lee toss during workout yesterday.
Pitching coach Rich Dubee watches Cliff Lee toss during workout yesterday.
Posted: February 22, 2011

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Cliff Lee stood in front of his locker with a bemused expression on his face as reporters peppered him with questions about a pain he no longer feels.

This is what it is like to be the $120 million man: Every wince, every limp, every burp is subject to become headline news.

The alarm bells started ringing on Sunday night, when a blog post by the Inquirer made it seem as if Lee was battling a mild strain in his side. Not long after, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told the Daily News in a phone call that Lee had a strained side - a month beforehand, and that the veteran lefthander was "absolutely 100 percent" and no longer suffering any discomfort.

Yesterday morning, the man himself clarified the situation.

"I was just playing catch in the offseason and felt a little minor something going on in my armpit,'' the star lefthander said. "I called the trainers, they diagnosed it, didn't throw for a few days, and then built back up. Here I am. I'm perfectly fine and right there with everyone else. It's not really a major issue.''

The Phillies probably could have eliminated the potential for confusion had they simply mentioned Lee's offseason discomfort when asked about the pitcher's abbreviated bullpen sessions last week. The club had decided to ease their newly signed star into action, keeping his sessions shorter than the other pitchers in camp. They said it was a simple matter of Lee working at his own pace.

Turns out, his pace was affected by the aforementioned tightness, which Lee said was located in the lat muscle on his left side. After calling the Phillies, he flew to Philadelphia and underwent an MRI, which revealed a mild strain. Amaro said the team shut Lee down for 7 or 8 days before allowing him to throw again.

"I think we were just cautious on the first day to see how he felt after that," Amaro said. "He felt fine. It's pretty much a non-issue for us."

On Monday, Lee estimated that he was five to 10 pitches behind the other pitchers in camp, a total that can easily be made up before Opening Day.

"We've still got plenty of time, and I feel fine,'' Lee said. "It's a non-issue.''

Lee has had several issues with his core muscle group over the course of his career. Last season, he missed most of April with a right lower ab strain and later dealt with back pain. He missed April 2007 with a right ab strain. And he missed the first 2 months of the 2003 season with what was described as a strained lower ab muscle/hernia.

But Lee said those injuries are not similar to the tightness he experienced in January.

"It was different from anything I've ever felt,'' said Lee, who stunned the baseball world by signing a 5-year, $120 million contract with the Phillies in mid-December. "It was something that was basically in my lat, underneath my armpit. I felt it one day, felt it a little bit the next, called the trainers, went to Philly, they said do this, do that, and now I'm fine.''

For more Phillies coverage and opinion, read David Murphy's blog, High Cheese, at www.philly.com/HighCheese. Follow him on Twitter at