Weeks after his teammates began the 2010 season, Cliff Lee is experiencing something he hasn't had since 2009 - a normal week.
Cleared to start for the Seattle Mariners on Friday, Lee rejoined the team yesterday, played catch and did his weightroom work, just as he would the day after any start last season.
Today, Lee threw a 52-pitch bullpen session, then ran 'poles' - going from one foul pole to the other. Again, that's what his second day after a start would normally be like.
"I'm in a normal routine, and it seems like it's been a long time since I could say that," Lee said. "In spring, I never got deep enough to be on the normal schedule, and during rehab, I was doing what I was told to do each day.
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"Tomorrow and Thursday, I'll play catch, Friday I'll pitch - then start the whole process over again."
At 31, the left-handed Lee is a former Cy Young Award winner (2008) who, over the past two seasons, has won 36 games and pitched 455 innings. That's the kind of pitcher a team misses.
"Just his presence is good for the team," pitching coach Rick Adair said. "Having him in the rotation for the first time? It's exciting for him, for the fans and for us."
When he walks to the mound from the bullpen at Safeco Field Friday, Lee will likely hear the cheers of fans who have not yet seen him in a Seattle uniform. It's part of the night he looks forward to.
"It's a first start for a new team, in a new park, in front of new fans," Lee said. "It's nice to have a lot of people hoping you do well, and it will probably be a little emotional.
"But my focus is throwing a first-pitch strike, getting that first hitter out and going from there. I'm going to have to focus on the hitters, not the fans."
Adair says there's one thng fans can watch for - and he hopes his pitching staff will see, too.
"Cliff runs to the mound from the dugout each inning, and he runs from the mound to the dugout when it's over," Adair said. "I like that."