Cliff Lee in a hurry to join Phillies
ANAHEIM - Word that pitcher Cliff Lee had been traded to the Phillies spread through the Cleveland Indians' clubhouse like an ice storm.
Having just been beaten by the Los Angeles Angels, 9-3, the Indians came off the field to find out, for the second season in a row, their club had traded away the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner.
The news did not go over well.
Quiet and subdued, Indians players moved deliberately around the clubhouse; that is, with one nearly manic exception: Cliff Lee.
Lee burst in from the showers and bolted to his locker, where he made like a quick-change artist, throwing on clothes like his life depended on it. You got the feeling his baseball life did.
"I've got to hurry," he said, somehow managing to button his shirt and put on his socks in one motion. "Obviously I'm going to miss these guys. But this is an opportunity to join a team in first place, the defending world champions. Right now I'm just trying to figure out how to meet up with them and help them win."
Lee said he had heard rumors throughout the day about a possible trade but nothing was certain. It wasn't until after yesterday's game, he said, that he got the word he was on the move. And boy, did he move.
"It's real now so I just have to find a way to meet up with them and just get acclimated," he said. "I'm anxious and excited to get there. It's the National League. I'm going to have to figure out how to get a bunt down more consistently."
It's a safe bet that if Lee figures out how to maintain his lifetime .634 winning percentage - best in Cleveland history - as well as his 3.14 ERA this season - seventh best in the American League - the Phillies will be just fine with him holding either end of the bat.
The addition of Lee, along with outfielder Ben Francisco, to a Phillies team just hitting its stride wasn't lost on anyone in Anaheim, including the Angels.
Marveled Angels outfielder Torii Hunter: "Man, the Phillies won the World Series last year with one great starter [Cole Hamels] . . . Now they have two. They're going to be tough."
For those he leaves behind in Cleveland - both teammates and fans - Lee seemed genuinely sad, and a little upset, and understood if they felt the same way.
"As a fan, it's gotta be hard to lose a Cy Young winner one year and another the next," he said, referencing last year's deal of CC Sabathia to Milwaukee. "That's got to be hard to swallow. You'll have to ask [Cleveland general manager Mark] Shapiro about it. Obviously, he thinks he's making the team better."
In a statement, Shapiro said, "At the root of this deal was balancing the conviction of our ability to compete in 2010 with the opportunity to impact the team's construction for years to come. Without the sense of confidence in the team's ultimate competitiveness, we acted aggressively to add players that will impact the organization in 2010 and beyond.''
There were no illusions in the Cleveland clubhouse about the Indians getting better immediately.
"Philadelphia's getting a great guy, a team leader," said Cleveland rookie pitcher David Huff. "He's the kind of guy who leads by example. He helped me out a lot, especially in the maturing process. I've been pretty much a sponge ever since I first got here, just trying to soak up everything I could. And Cliff was the one guy I watched and listened to the most."
It was a nice sentiment, but one Lee didn't have much time to listen to. Lee said he did not know if he would be pitching for the Phillies tomorrow against the Giants to remain on his regular turn. Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said in Arizona that he was not sure when Lee would make his Phillies debut.
"Right now, all I know is I'm going to the defending world champions," Lee said. "That's a good thing."