Lee says 'something has to change' with Phillies

"I feel I signed with Philadelphia to come here and win a championship," Cliff Lee says.
"I feel I signed with Philadelphia to come here and win a championship," Cliff Lee says. (ROBERT STRETCH / For The Inquirer)
Posted: July 16, 2014

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Cliff Lee believes the Phillies need to change, but he insists he is not concerned about whether he stays or goes at the looming trade deadline.

He does, however, admire the way teammate Jonathan Papelbon spoke his mind recently when he said he'd love to move to a team that is further north in the standings than the last-place Phillies.

"When you lose for multiple years in a row, more guys are going to be willing to leave and want to win," the pitcher said Monday night after he made his third and likely final rehab start for single-A Clearwater at Bright House Field. "That comes with losing. The expectations this organization has had the past eight years or so is to win and we haven't done that. When that happens, something has to change."

Lee isn't exactly sure what needs to change, but he offered some possibilities.

"Whether it's guys changing their approach or expectations or changing their scenery altogether, something has to change," he said. "It's up to us individually if we're going to change our approach, our work ethic or if you're willing to accept being traded. A lot of us don't have a 100 percent say on that, but there are a few guys who have full no-trade rights who have to make that decision. Each individual has a right to view it however they want."

Papelbon provided his view last week when he said it was a "no-brainer" to want to play for a contending team rather than a last-place one.

"I think that's him being honest with how he feels," Lee said. "There are not many guys who have the courage or the [guts] to say that. That's how he feels and that's the truth and a lot of guys don't really want to hear the truth, so that's basically how I feel about it. That's him telling exactly how he feels."

And how does Lee feel about the possibility of being traded?

"I feel I signed with Philadelphia to come here and win a championship and that's what I want to do," he said. "That's where my focus is and that's what every guy's focus on the team should be. You should focus on winning every game to get to the postseason and win the World Series. That's where my focus is going to stay."

Whether his valuable left arm will or should stay is another matter. He was on the trade block last year at the deadline, but no one could meet general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.'s demands. The price, at least in terms of players, has gone down because of Lee's elbow injury and his age. At the most, he's going to make two starts before July 31, so a team would be taking a huge risk on the lefty without seeing more of him. It's possible that a trade could be made in August if Lee clears waivers.

It's also possible that Lee could still be here for the rest of this season and beyond. He insists he has no regrets about choosing Philadelphia as his free-agent destination.

"I don't second-guess myself too much," he said.

The lefthander took less money than the Rangers and deep-pocketed New York Yankees offered because he wanted to pitch for the Phillies again even after they traded him to Seattle following his 2009 World Series heroics. That decision made him one of the most popular athletes in the city's history. But now you wonder if the time has come again for Lee to move to another location.

At this point, the only thing Lee is sure of is that he'll come off the disabled list and pitch for the Phillies Monday when they play the San Francisco Giants at Citizens Bank Park. Despite being roughed up by the Palm Beach Cardinals' young hitters, he said he is ready to return from the elbow injury that has sidelined him since a May 18 start against Cincinnati.

"I feel like I could have commanded my fastball a little better," Lee said after he allowed eight hits and eight runs (three earned) in 42/3 innings. "It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either, so that could improve, but I did focus on using other pitches a little more. Obviously you have to be able to do that in the big leagues. The results were not what I wanted it to be, but I got the reps in and now it's time to go back and help the Phillies."

For how long is the question that lingers over Lee and a lot of other veterans on the Phillies' roster with the July 31 trade deadline approaching. He insists he will treat this trade deadline like all the others, which is pretty much the way he treats his life.

"I have no expectations for [the trade deadline]," he said. "That's obviously Ruben's job to [make trades]. I'm not too worried about trying to do his job for him. Obviously, he has some decisions to make about whether to move guys or try to add some pieces or what. That's what he does and my job is to go out and try to put up zeros and help the team win and that's what I'm going to focus on."


bbrookover@phillynews.com

@brookob

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