Phillies Notebook: Progress for Phillies' Lee

ASSOCIATED PRESS Phillies' Domonic Brown beats Braves' pitcher Ervin Santana to plate after passed ball in fourth inning.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Phillies' Domonic Brown beats Braves' pitcher Ervin Santana to plate after passed ball in fourth inning.
Posted: June 19, 2014

ATLANTA - Cliff Lee took a significant step toward returning to action yesterday. He threw 20 fastballs, maximum effort, off a mound, his first such work since landing on the disabled list with a strained flexor tendon a month ago.

Lee shrugged his shoulders after the bullpen session when asked what his next step is.

"We'll know a lot more [today] when I see how it feels," he said.

Lee isn't ruling out a return to the active roster before the All-Star break, although that might be a bit optimistic. A perfect progression would likely have Lee throw a longer bullpen in a couple of days, and another one 2 or 3 days after that. Factor in a couple of rehab appearances, and you are already into the first week of July. And that's an extremely optimistic progression.

Lee said his elbow feels good and is pain-free, although he acknowledged that he can still "tell something is there."

Expect the Phillies to err on the side of caution with their veteran lefthander, who likely won't have enough time to prove his health and effectiveness to teams that might be interested in trading for him ahead of the July 31 non-waiver deadline.

Utley, Revere sit

Manager Ryne Sandberg decided to sit Chase Utley against Braves righty Ervin Santana, saying he felt the second baseman looked like he needed day off.

Utley was hitting just .206 with a .561 OPS over his previous 17 games. During that stretch, he had three extra-base hits, six walks and nine strikeouts in 68 at-bats. Utley's overall numbers still put him as the top offensive second baseman in the National League, with a .301/.360/.477 batting line, including five home runs in 256 at-bats. It was Utley's first day off since June 1. He was replaced in the lineup by Cesar Hernandez, who entered the day hitting just .200/.257/.262 with 20 strikeouts and two extra-base hits in 65 at-bats.

"It's just a day to really catch up a little," Sandberg said. "His bat looks sluggish, his swing is a little long. We'll give him a day."

Also out of the lineup was Ben Revere, who was battling a sore knee suffered while crashing into the wall after tracking down a long fly ball off the bat of Freddie Freeman on Monday night.

Since returning from a weeklong absence from the starting lineup in late May, Revere was hitting .301/.321/.388 with six extra-base hits in 103 at-bats, including his first major league home run. Prior to that, he was hitting just .268/.284/.297 with two extra-base hits in 138 at-bats.

Nola debuts

Righthander Aaron Nola, whom the Phillies drafted seventh overall earlier this month, pitched in an intrasquad game at the organization's training facility in Clearwater, Fla. He is expected to remain in Clearwater to begin his minor league career with the Class A (Advanced) Threshers.

'Pen improvement

Entering last night's game, the Phillies' bullpen had posted a 2.89 ERA in the last 30 days. That is the seventh-best mark in the majors, fifth-best in the National League.

Their 9.96 K/9 rate during that stretch ranked third in the majors. On the flip side, their 4.39 BB/9 rate was the third-highest in the majors in the last 30 days. Compare those to the numbers they posted in April: a 4.84 ERA (27th) and a 7.99 K/9 (21st).

Altherr arrives

Ryne Sandberg looked down his bench in the 10th inning on Monday night and saw a new face. Outfielder Aaron Altherr had arrived from Reading after a hasty summons and a lengthy flight delay.

Altherr is filling Tony Gwynn Jr.'s roster spot while the reserve outfielder is on the bereavement list in the wake of his legendary father's death. Sandberg decided there was no time like the present, giving Altherr his first-ever big-league plate appearance in the 12th inning against Anthony Varvaro.

"I'm thinking, 'This guy is probably really excited, maybe he'll square one up and get a hit,' " Sandberg said. "Maybe beginner's luck or something will kick in and he'll finish the story."

Altherr flied out.


On Twitter: @ByDavidMurphy

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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