Just a few minutes ago, in the visitor's bullpen at Turner Field, Cliff Lee took a significant step toward returning to action. He threw 20 fastballs, maximum effort, off a mound, his first such work since landing on the disabled list with a strained flexor tendon a month ago.
Lee shrugged his shoulders after the bullpen session when asked what his next step is.
"We'll know a lot more tomorrow when I see how it feels," he said.
Lee isn't ruling out a return to the active roster before the All-Star Break, although that might be a bit optimistic. A perfect progression would likely have Lee throw a longer bullpen in a couple of days, and another one two or three days after that. Factor in a couple of rehab appearances, and you are already into the first week of July. And that's an extremely optimistic progression.
Lee said his elbow feels good and is pain-free, although he acknowledged that he can still "tell something is there." Expect the Phillies to err on the side of caution with their veteran lefthander, who likely won't have enough time to prove his health and effectiveness to teams who might be interested in trading for him ahead of the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.