Lee's belief in himself is rewarded

Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee. (Tom Mihalek/AP)

Last year Cliff Lee didn’t earn his first win until the 4th of July. This year he earned his fourth all-star berth on July 6th.

What a difference a year and a few days makes.

Lee pitched well last year, evidenced by his 3.16 ERA, but he went just 6-9 and had 15 no-decisions in 30 starts, which was tied for the most in the Major Leagues. He also wasn’t helped by going on the disabled list in from April 19 to May 8 with an oblique injury.

Now he is healthy, is winning and is an all-star.

This time his statistics are not misleading, not when Lee is 10-2 with a 2.73 ERA.

When Lee was asked whether being an all-star this time was more special considering what he went through last year, he became reflective.

“I don’t know,” he said, while talking to a few reporters following Saturday’s 13-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park, the day he was told of his all-star selection. “Last year was a strange year for me.”

And one he has obviously put behind him.

“You are going to have years like that and you will have years where you get unbelievably lucky too,” Lee said. “Last year was definitely the unlucky side of it.”

The key for Lee was moving forward and not looking back.

“That is behind me and I never let it get me down or never let it bother me as I continued to focus on my routine and do the things I needed to do to prepare for the season,” he said.

And now he has returned to the all-star game, which will be staged July 16 at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets.

The 34-year-old Lee is not one of those jaded veterans who would rather have a few days off instead of participating in the all-star festivities. It’s interesting how humbled somebody like Lee is even with all he has accomplished, including a winning Cy Young Award, participating two years in the World Series with two different teams, and of course now the fourth all-star appearance.

“It is something that is definitely an honor no matter how many times you have done it,” he said. “It is something you want to do every year and something to be proud of, no way around it.”

Most of all, when times were tough, Lee never stopped believing in himself and he has been rewarded with a bounce back year, although, last season wasn’t nearly as bad as the won-loss record makes it look.

His routine never changed although this year his luck has because he believed in what he was doing and never wavered.

“I have had success (with the same routine) and will continue to do it that way until the results aren’t there,” he said.

The results have surely returned. It took him more than three months to earn his first win a year ago. This time the same three-plus month earned him back with the elite of the game, a place Lee felt he belonged all along.