Phillies Notes: Amaro: Lee to be 'pretty free' of restrictions

Posted: July 22, 2014

ATLANTA - The prize of the pitching market this July, David Price, plays for a team enjoying its best run of the season. There are no guarantees that Tampa Bay will deal Price, and that steers all focus toward Cliff Lee.

He will pitch Monday for the first time in two months. More than a dozen scouts are expected at Citizens Bank Park to evaluate how Lee has handled a strained left elbow.

Lee will start two games before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. His performances will dictate whether that is enough to entice a contender to offer a suitable package.

"I expect him to be Cliff Lee," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "He's pretty robotic when he goes out there and pitches. I don't think he was all that enthusiastic - he doesn't see pitching in rehab games as something that's necessarily beneficial other than to get his work in. So I think he'll pitch fine. If he's healthy, he'll pitch fine."

This was Lee's first injury to his elbow or shoulder. Amaro, at first, expected Lee to miss two or three weeks. It took much longer.

"But we had to be cautious with him," Amaro said. "We can't pitch him when he isn't ready to pitch."

Amaro estimated Lee will be "pretty free" of restrictions Monday. Lee threw 76 pitches in his final rehab start with single-A Clearwater. Amaro said Lee could approach 85-100 pitches this time.

Ryne Sandberg said one thing to watch was Lee's stamina in the later innings. That, the manager said, was an issue throughout Lee's recovery.

Burnett market

A.J. Burnett has pitched to a 4.08 ERA in 21 starts, which does not make him the best available pitcher. But he will draw interest from a contender looking to bolster the back of its rotation, and two teams - Baltimore and Pittsburgh - make sense because of Burnett's desire to pitch near his Monkton, Md., home.

The Orioles and Phillies engaged in "very preliminary" talks, according to a report, which can mean any number of things. (The Phillies have held "very preliminary" talks with every team on every player.)

Pittsburgh may be the best fit.

The Pirates raved about Burnett's effect on their younger pitchers last season. Although his time there ended on a sour note in the postseason, he was welcomed with a standing ovation at PNC Park earlier this month. And there is a need: Gerrit Cole is on the disabled list.

A Pittsburgh scout - not on his normal coverage - watched Burnett's start Friday at Turner Field. The Pirates could use a boost to a rotation of Francisco Liriano, Charlie Morton, Edinson Volquez, Jeff Locke, and Vance Worley.

Baltimore, meanwhile, will have six starters at its disposal once Ubaldo Jimenez returns from the disabled list. That could make Pittsburgh a better fit, as long as the two sides can agree on a deal. Burnett's salary demands did not fit their budget in the winter. The Phillies could pay down his contract in exchange for a midlevel prospect.

Extra bases

The Phillies will make a few roster moves Monday. Catcher Wil Nieves (strained right quadriceps) is expected to be activated. He could replace Koyie Hill. The Phillies have carried an extra bench player, and one must be removed to clear space for Lee. Tony Gwynn Jr. and Andres Blanco are candidates. . . . Grady Sizemore started for the sixth time in six games since his promotion. He is 10 for 24 with the Phillies.

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