WASHINGTON - The fact that the Phillies didn't make a trade by the non-waiver trade deadline wasn't the worst news Thursday.
Lefthander Cliff Lee, making his third start after being sidelined more than two months with a strained left elbow, was forced to leave the game after throwing an 85-m.p.h. cutter to Denard Span with two outs in the third inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park.
According to the Phillies, Lee reinjured his elbow. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list and lefthander Cesar Jimenez was promoted from Lehigh Valley.
After throwing the pitch, the normally stoic Lee uttered an expletive and threw his arms up in disgust before departing with head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan. In the dugout he clearly showed emotion while pointing to his arm.
"It's pretty much the same as it was before," Lee said after the Phillies' 10-4 victory. "I felt it just barely warming up, and every time I took the mound for my warm-up pitches the first pitch or two it would kind of be there a little bit and fade away. The last inning I felt it warming up, and it never fully went away and came on stronger the last six or seven pitches I threw. It was there every throw. I felt if I kept throwing something was going to snap, and I just wanted to make sure that didn't happen."
After two rocky starts, Lee was back pitching the way he was accustomed to before the injury. In 22/3 scoreless innings, he allowed one hit, struck out four, walked none, and threw 24 of 31 pitches for strikes.
Lee said he felt much better entering this start than the previous two.
"Body-wise, I felt good," he said. "My past two starts I kind of felt tired. My body wasn't fully ready to compete at the highest level. Today, body-wise, I felt great and normal, but the elbow was not allowing it to happen."
Lee, who never had an arm injury until being placed on the disabled list May 19, has $45.8 million left on his contract through 2015.
Early in the season Lee had pitched about a month in discomfort. The day after throwing 116 pitches in an 8-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds on May 18, he was placed on the disabled list.
Lee didn't return until July 21, when he allowed six earned runs in 52/3 innings of a 7-4 loss to the visiting San Francisco Giants.
Right before that start against the Giants, Lee talked about the hazards of rebounding from an injury.
"That's just the nature of the business," Lee said. "Anytime you've had an injury and you go back to doing what you did that probably created the injury, then there's potential that could happen. That's just the way it is."
In his first two starts since returning, Lee allowed 21 hits in 102/3 innings and had a 7.59 ERA. He was much sharper Thursday before his injury.
The injury adds to the Phillies' pitching woes. They have just one healthy starting pitcher under contract for next season - Cole Hamels.
A.J. Burnett, Roberto Hernandez, and Kyle Kendrick will all be free agents.
Nationals lefthander Gio Gonzalez, a former Phillies minor-leaguer, was knocked out of the game after allowing five runs in the fourth inning. The big hit was a two-run double by Grady Sizemore that opened the scoring for the Phillies.
Notes. Phillies righthander Ken Giles struck out former Phillie Jayson Werth swinging to end the seventh inning on a 100-m.p.h. fastball. . . . Ben Revere, who entered the game 4 for 23 (.174) in six career games at Nationals Park, was 4 for 6. . . . First-round pick Aaron Nola allowed one run on two hits in five innings with eight strikeouts and one walk Thursday for Clearwater. He could soon earn a promotion to double-A Reading.