Baseball / Sports

All eyes will be on Cliff Lee's first start in two months

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.

Phillies manager 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.

(c)2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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