Cliff Lee is entering the final guaranteed year of five-year contract.
Reinhold Matay/Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Facing the possibility of surgery and a long road back to the mound, Cliff Lee is giving rehabilitation one more try.
Lee will try to pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies through an elbow injury instead of having surgery that would end his season and possibly his career. The ace left-hander made the decision after a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews.
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Head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan said the tear in Lee’s common flexor tendon looks the same on an MRI as it did last year, when the ace was limited to 13 starts.
"I guess it’s good that it’s not worse," Lee said Tuesday. "I just know how I feel, and I know that it’s there, and I’ll continue to try and throw and, hopefully, it doesn’t get any worse."
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he’s "not terribly optimistic" that Lee can return to pitching without pain but there’s a possibility he can. Surgery would be the next step if Lee can’t pitch without discomfort.
"He’s just going to continue to throw, and if it gets worse and worse, then he might have to shut it down and we’ll figure out where to go from there," Amaro said. "We’ve tried to do this, rehab him non-surgically twice now, and the next order of progression I guess would be to have a surgery if it doesn’t pan out."
The 36-year-old Lee is entering the final guaranteed season of a $120 million, five-year contract. The deal includes a $27.5 million option for 2016 with a $12.5 million buyout, a year that would become guaranteed if he pitches 200 innings and doesn’t finish the season on the disabled list with a left elbow or shoulder injury.
He would’ have been trade bait for the rebuilding Phillies had he been healthy. Instead, he faces an uncertain future.
"I’ve got a family at home and I’ve been away from them for a long time, so that is part of the equation," Lee said. "If I were to have the surgery, am I going to go through all that to try to pitch again, or am I going to shut it down? That’s a decision that I’ll have to make once that time comes, if that times comes."
Lee was the 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner with Cleveland. A four-time All-Star, he is 143-91 with a 3.52 ERA in 13 seasons.