MIAMI — Cliff Lee fired 32,869 regular-season pitches in the majors before an elbow or shoulder injury sidelined him. "This is new to me," Lee said Tuesday night. He felt the pain in his left elbow when he turned a doorknob and when he lifted his body from a taxi.
The Phillies hope two weeks will cure Lee's elbow strain. Lee is not sure.
"I've never had anything like this," Lee said. "They seem to think that not throwing for a week it should be quite a bit better. I don't know if it'll be gone, but you don't really know until you get there."
A more realistic timetable is a month. Chris Sale, the 25-year-old White Sox ace, was placed on the disabled list April 18 with a similar flexor tendon strain. That was after a 127-pitch outing. Sale has made one rehab start with plans for another this week. He could return before the end of May.
Lee said the soreness in his elbow developed April 18, the day after he threw a career-high 128 pitches against Atlanta. It bothered him to varying degrees in subsequent outings.
"As much season as we have left," Lee said, "I didn't think I could keep pitching like that."
So the Phillies must produce a replacement beginning with Saturday's start vs. Los Angeles. The logical choice is David Buchanan, the 25-year-old righthander who impressed team officials during spring training.
Buchanan's first seven starts at triple-A Lehigh Valley yielded a 3.12 ERA. But he struck out just 25 in 34 2/3 innings and walked 14. Opposing hitters dinged him for two runs on nine hits over five innings on May 13. And, in his last start, Buchanan threw 45 pitches in a nightmarish first inning. He was tagged for four runs on five hits and a walk. He did not pitch a second inning.
Those two starts came after a nine-day break forced by an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Buchanan's one-inning outing Sunday was not the result of an injury; the Phillies will remove minor-league pitchers if they throw a certain amount of pitches in an inning. Buchanan reached that limit.
Buchanan's next start for the IronPigs is scheduled for Saturday. (The team was off Wednesday.) He has thrown more than 97 pitches in a start just once.
Greg Smith, Barry Enright, Sean O'Sullivan and Brad Lincoln fill the remainder of the Lehigh Valley rotation. Lincoln slid into the rotation when Jonathan Pettibone was placed on the disabled list with continued shoulder woes. Pettibone is scheduled to meet Wednesday with renowned orthopedist James Andrews.
Jesse Biddle has reduced his walk rate at double-A Reading, but the Phillies do not consider him ready. The injury to Lee, however, could push Biddle to triple A. He has a 3.18 ERA in 10 starts for Reading with 61 strikeouts and 24 walks in 56 2/3 innings.
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