Baseball / Sports

Cliff Lee throws four pain-free innings in minor-league start

MILWAUKEE -- Cliff Lee threw 59 pitches without incident Wednesday night in Tampa, Fla., and that was one of the more positive developments in seven weeks for the prized Phillies starter with the strained left elbow. He allowed three runs in four innings for single-A Clearwater.

Lee will pitch there again Monday, which could act as the final precursor to his return. His first minor-league rehab outing last Sunday was shortened by rain. This one had a better conclusion.

He cruised through the first three innings on 32 pitches with six groundouts and two strikeouts. The Tampa Yankees scored three in the fourth on two doubles and two singles. One of the doubles was misplayed by a Threshers outfielder.

Lee last pitched for the Phillies on May 18. He threw 44 of his 59 pitches for strikes on Wednesday.

If everything breaks right, Lee could make three starts in the majors before the July 31 trade deadline. That could force the Phillies to wait until August, when Lee can still be traded if he clears waivers, for a suitable package.

The pitching market is muddled. The Yankees, who placed Masahiro Tanaka on the disabled list Wednesday and could be without CC Sabathia for the remainder of the season, have a definite need.

Tampa Bay is playing its best baseball of the season in a weakened American League East and could decide to keep David Price. Boston waved its white flag and could deal Jon Lester. But the Red Sox are interested in re-signing Lester, a free agent at season's end. Kansas City is a contender, which makes James Shields unavailable.

Lee, 35, is owed at least $50 million through 2015. He could make it $65 million with a vesting option for 2016.

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