Phillies Notebook: Cliff Lee set for start after all-star break

Fans at Citizens Bank Park go after a solo home run by the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman in the eighth inning during the Phillies 10-3 loss Sunday, July 13, 2014. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Fans at Citizens Bank Park go after a solo home run by the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman in the eighth inning during the Phillies 10-3 loss Sunday, July 13, 2014. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Posted: July 15, 2014

WHEN THE PHILLIES return for their first series at Citizens Bank Park after the All-Star break, they are expected to finally have back the services of their Opening Day starter.

A week from today, in the opener of a four-game series against the San Francisco Giants, Cliff Lee is slated to make his first start in more than 2 months. Lee, sidelined since May 19 with a left elbow strain, will pitch in his final rehab outing tonight in High A Clearwater's game against Palm Beach, the Florida State League's St. Louis Cardinals' affiliate.

The scheduling ensures Lee two starts before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. If all goes according to plan, his turn in the rotation would come up on July 26 and July 31.

The Phillies are 22-31 since Lee's injury. The Cy Young Award-winning lefthander was 4-4 with a 3.18 ERA in 10 starts.

Lee has pitched in two rehab games already, tossing six innings in all. In his last start, on July 9 against the New York Yankees' Tampa affiliate, he allowed three runs on four hits over four innings. Lee threw 59 pitches that night and is expected to be stretched out to about 75 pitches tonight.

Manager Ryne Sandberg also announced the rest of the post-All-Star break rotation. A.J. Burnett (6-8, 3.93 ERA) will start Friday against the Braves in the Phillies' first game after the break. Cole Hamels (3-5, 2.93) and Kyle Kendrick (4-9, 4.62) will follow him in the rotation. Roberto Hernandez (4-8, 2.22) will start July 22, the night after Lee.

Howard's comfort zone

Ryan Howard capped the recent 10-game road trip with his best performance in quite a while, hitting a home run, doubling and driving in three runs to help the Phillies earn a four-game road sweep of the first-place Brewers.

But in this past weekend's homestand against the Nationals, two Phillies losses, Howard was hitless in 12 at-bats. In yesterday's 10-3 defeat, he drove in a run on a groundout to first base and scored in the ninth on a Cameron Rupp groundout.

Howard enters the break hitting .220 with 15 home runs and 56 RBI for the season.

"He's working on feeling comfortable. He's working on a comfortable stance," Sandberg said. "He's trying to find a comfort zone with his approach and stance and a lot of things. That seems to be causing some inconsistency and it's hard really for him to get into a groove."

Phillers

Grady Sizemore finished his first series with the Phillies hitting 2-for-12 with a double and a pair of runs scored . . . Domonic Brown (illness) was out of the lineup for the second consecutive day yesterday but did pinch-hit with two outs in the ninth inning, popping out to his former teammate, Kevin Frandsen, to end the game . . . Before yesterday's first pitch, Chase Utley was presented with his National League All-Star uniform ahead of this week's festivities in Minnesota . . . After winning four of their first five Sunday games to start the season, the Phillies have lost on each of the last eight Sundays.


On Twitter: @jakemkaplan

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