Cliff Lee may require elbow surgery, if so, would miss entire season/6-8 months, possibly end career

March 11th, 2015 by Kyle Lutz | Filed under Baseball, Phillies.

Unfortunately, the Phillies didn’t get any good news on starting pitcher Cliff Lee today. Dr. James Andrews determined that Lee has a tear in the common flexor tendon in his left elbow. This is not-surprising, but it’s unfortunate news in the long list of Phillies’ off-season problems.

The common flexor tendon, left-elbow tear is the same injury from last year and matches the initial diagnosis from last weekend. Lee will try to throw through it, to see if his condition improves, but surgery would sideline him for 6-8 months, if that option is explored- which seems like the most-likely case now, after Andrews’ opinion.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. isn’t optimistic about Lee’s chances of avoiding surgery, so it’s starting to look like Lee won’t pitch at all this season, which many fans, analysts and writers anticipated, considering the previous problems with his elbow. Although Amaro, Jr. isn’t optimistic, he noted today, succeeding the news, that there’s still a chance that Lee plays this year.

Lee is owed $25 million this season and has a $12.5 million buyout on his 2016 club option. All of this is according to Phillies’ Comcast Sportsnet insider Jim Salisbury, who is following the team first hand in Spring Training, especially the Lee injury updates and Cole Hamels’ continuous trade news. We’ll see what happens ultimately, but we hope for the best, for both Lee and the Phillies.

With this news bit, it looks as if, at least for now, the Phillies will lose a huge chunk of their remaining investment in Lee, who, as mentioned, is owed over $20 million in 2015. This afternoon, prior to the injury update, Lee played catch, with Phillies’ pitching coach Bob McClure noting that he saw Lee increase his distance throughout the (throwing) session.

He made just 13 starts in 2014, due to a strain in the same flexor pronator in his left elbow, although he did manage to avoid surgery somehow. In that 2014 season, he went 4-5, with a 3.65 ERA, a whopping 11.1 hits/9 innings average, eight strikeouts/9, 1.3 walks/9, and a FIP (fielding independent pitching average) of 2.96, in 81.1 innings pitched.

He’s 36 years old, and by the time the 2015 season ends, he’ll be 37 and perhaps at the end of his rope, in terms of his career and how much gas he has left in the tank- if any. Apparently, nearly eight months of rest and relaxation with that elbow hasn’t been effective. This past December/off-season, he began a throwing program and was doing well in his progress from the injury. With this recent news being released and with the strong chance that he has surgery on it, Lee could retire, or possibly, at best, return for only one-more year, just to retire on his terms. Yesterday, he acknowledged that, with this recent setback and if surgery occurs, his career may be over.

“So basically if I have the surgery this season will be done. Possibly my career I guess. I don’t know. We’ll have to see.”

Two-days ago was when the injury woes seemed to reappear, as he mentioned that he was experiencing renewed soreness in his elbow, with Amaro, Jr. calling the soreness “mild.” After an MRI on the elbow was conducted on the same day, the team released a statement, saying that the MRI showed mild inflammation and that the results had been sent to Dr. James Andrews (see above) for a second opinion on it.

This past off-season, he was also in the middle of a ton of trade rumors, though no deal was struck for him, unfortunately.

Last year was Lee’s fifth season in Philadelphia, and fourth in a row. He’s 48-34, with a 2.94 ERA, in those five years in Philly. Since his return in 2011, he’s had two top-10 Cy-Young-Award finishes, including one top-five finish (he finished third in 2011, behind Clayton Kershaw and then-teammate Roy Halladay). In 13 major-league seasons, he’s gone 143-91 (61.1%), with a Cy Young Award win in 2008 with Cleveland, and over 1800 strikeouts.


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