Phillies' Lee says he's feeling fine

Posted: June 13, 2014

CLIFF LEE has never had an arm injury in nearly 3 decades of playing baseball, so he said he honestly doesn't know what to expect in the next month. As he laced up his cleats for a round of pitchers' fielding practice yesterday afternoon, Lee said he was sure of one thing.

"I'm tired of rehabbing," he said.

But Lee's lengthy stay away from the mound took an important step the day before: He picked up a baseball and played catch for the first time in 22 days before the Phillies took batting practice on Tuesday.

"I felt fine," Lee said.

Lee will throw again today. Manager Ryne Sandberg said the plan will be for Lee to throw every other day and then progress to throwing on back-to-back days, with a day of rest in between.

Lee will go from playing catch to throwing long toss to taking the mound in side bullpen sessions. Eventually, Lee will get into a rehab game.

But it's a process that will likely take him into July.

"I really don't, to be honest with you," Lee said, asked if he had a timeframe in mind. "If I had something similar to it before, I might know. But it's new to me."

But Lee has taken the first baby step toward a return, 3 weeks and 1 day after being placed on the 15-day DL with a left elbow strain. Lee is nearly pain-free.

"Barely there," Lee said. "It's healing - it's almost healed. I just have to build back up the strength and get back out there."

Asche update

Cody Asche is expected to begin an official rehab assignment at Low A Lakewood tomorrow. Asche has been on the DL with a left hamstring strain since May 25.

The Phillies' overall production at third base this season has been underwhelming: .620 OPS (fifth worst in baseball), .213 batting average (fourth worst), 71 total bases and 14 extra-base hits (both third worst).

But those numbers have managed to drop further in the 3 weeks since Asche last played a game. The combination of veteran utility infielder Reid Brignac and converted second baseman Cesar Hernandez has handled the job in Asche's absence.

Brignac, who started last night, entered the game hitting .226 with a .605 OPS, two extra-base hits and 13 strikeouts in eight starts at third in the last 3 weeks. Hernandez is hitting .152 with a .200 OBP, .352 OPS and zero extra-base hits in 10 starts at third base since Asche's injury.

"The fact of the matter is Cody was on the rise just when he got hurt, doing some things, showing some consistency with his bat," Sandberg said of Asche, who was hitting .317 with three home runs and a .956 OPS in 17 games in May. "He was at the bottom of the order and doing some good things. I'd say that we've missed that. In the meantime, it's a chance for some other guys to play."

Fans clamoring for the Phillies to promote top prospect Maikel Franco are likely going to be disappointed.

Franco's bat began to heat up in May, but he is hitting just .213 with a .613 OPS in 61 games at Triple A Lehigh Valley. Franco, 21, ranked the 17th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America over the winter, is hitting .106 (5-for-47) with two doubles, a home run and 11 strikeouts in his last 11 games entering yesterday.

Phillers

The Phillies received some fortunate news when the Padres decided to push Andrew Cashner (2-5, 2.13) back a day, from today at Citizens Bank Park to tomorrow at Citi Field against the Mets. Among National League starters with at least 60 innings pitched, only Atlanta's Julio Teheran (1.89 ERA), San Francisco's Tim Hudson (1.97) and Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto (1.97) have lower ERAs than Cashner, who recently returned from a DL stint. Lefthander Eric Stults (2-7, 5.68) is starting for the Padres this afternoon opposite Kyle Kendrick (1-6, 4.30) . . . On Tuesday night, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley started their 1,000th game together, the most among any current major league right-side-of-the-infield duo. Jimmy Rollins and Utley (1,123 games together) have also started more than any active doubleplay combo . . . Entering last night, Phillies pitchers have seen their opponents hit .290 with a .358 OBP when leading off an inning. Both numbers are the highest in baseball.


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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