When Cliff Lee consulted with two doctors, there was never a mention of surgery for his troublesome left elbow. The parties agreed that Lee suffered a recurrence of the strained flexor pronator muscle, an injury that sidelined him for two months earlier this season.
The Phillies will adopt another conservative approach with Lee, who may not throw again until October or November. But another elongated period of rest will not quell doubt about Lee's availability for 2015.
He is, for now, expected to be ready for spring training. The left-hander, owed $37.5 million next season (including a buyout for 2016), received a platelet-rich plasma injection Wednesday in Philadelphia. Lee was examined by David Altcheck, the Mets team doctor, in New York. He concurred with Phillies team physician Michael Ciccotti's diagnosis.
Surgery is not an option, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said.
"It wasn't something that was even discussed with Ciccotti or Altcheck," Amaro said. "Everybody was kind of on board. I think the strain was mild enough such that it does not require any type of surgery. They injected him. They'll see how it heals and we'll start him on a throwing program whenever it's time to start."
The Phillies, of course, would be wise to pursue every possible nonsurgical route. A significant elbow surgery could prevent Lee from pitching in 2015 -- or ever again. The 35-year-old lefthander has said this is his final contract.
This is Lee's first arm injury. He turns 36 on Aug. 30. He will take his prescribed rest at home in Arkansas.
"That looks promising," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "It's a better sign not having the surgery."
The flexor pronator muscle is one typically associated with Tommy John surgery. San Diego pitcher Josh Johnson was diagnosed with a flexor strain in spring training. He opted for Tommy John surgery in late April. That is just one of countless examples.
But it does not always lead to surgery. Roy Halladay divulged last September that he was diagnosed with a flexor pronator injury in the mid-2000s. He was told he would eventually need surgery, but that never happened. (Halladay's surgery in 2013 was on his shoulder, not his elbow.)
Phillies reliever Justin De Fratus missed half of 2012 with a flexor pronator strain but never underwent surgery.
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