PEORIA, Ariz. – What might be the best 1-2 punch in the American League West – Seattle Mariners starting pitchers Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee – will be without its “two” for the immediate future.
Lee is hurt, won’t throw a baseball for at least another seven days and could open the season not just suspended but also on the disabled list.
“This isn’t what we planned for,” manager Don Wakamatsu said, “but we’ll deal with it.”
Lee, the left-handed ace who won two World Series games for the Phillies last October, strained an abdominal muscle during Monday’s game against Arizona. In that same game, Lee threw a pitch high and inside to Diamondbacks hitter Chris Snyder and drew a five-game suspension to be served in the regular season.
“Cliff first felt it in Tucson in that collsion (behind the plate), but he continued to pitch,” Wakamatsu said. “How far behind does this put him? We’ll see how he feels in a week.”
Lee flew to Seattle on Friday, was treated by team physician Ed Khalifan, and will rejoin the team in Peoria today. He won’t be reevaluated for seven days and by then will not have pitched in 11 days.
“We are hoping for a speedy recovery and look forward to his returning,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said.
Lee has pitched 52/3 innings in the Cactus League, and though he tried to throw a bullpen session as recently as Thursday, the injury is going to set him back substantially. And this comes after foot surgery in February delayed the start of his spring training.
A rotation that the Mariners envisioned including Hernandez, Lee and Erik Bedard perhaps as early as mid-May could now open the season with only Hernandez healthy. Should Lee open the year on the disabled list – a distinct possibility – his suspension would not begin until he was activated.
That means the Mariners will need a sixth starting pitcher to begin their season and almost certainly a seven-man bullpen to help eat up innings.
That, in turn, means Seattle will open 2010 with three reserve players: catcher Rob Johnson, utility infielder Josh Wilson and either Josh Byrnes or Ryan Langerhans in the outfield.