CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) – Cliff Lee gave up two runs and struggled with his control in his spring training debut Tuesday, but didn’t sound too worried about it following the Philadelphia Phillies’ 6-2 loss to a Detroit Tigers split squad.
Lee, the biggest prize on the free-agent market this offseason, agreed to a $120 million, five-year contract with Philadelphia in December, signing up for his second stint with the Phillies.
He tossed two innings Tuesday and hit the first batter he faced, Will Rhymes. The left-hander also walked one in his first game back with the Phillies since the 2009 World Series.
“I wish that I didn’t hit a guy and walk a guy, but I was just working on locating fastballs. (That) was the main thing for me today,” Lee said. “I threw a few cutters — that was really the best pitch working for me today. It was good to get the first one over with. I wish the results were better, but it is what it is.”
With most of their starters in Lakeland for a game against Toronto, the Tigers got enough offense from one of the three regulars in the lineup against Philadelphia. Left fielder Ryan Raburn finished 2 for 3, including a two-run homer and an RBI triple off Lee.
Center fielder Clete Thomas also had two hits and an RBI for the Tigers, but the majority of the 5,928 fans who showed up at Bright House Field came to see Lee.
Just more than two months ago, the 32-year-old ace stunned many in baseball and sent Phillies fans into a frenzy when he rejoined the team that traded him to Seattle a year earlier. Fresh off a World Series defeat with the Texas Rangers, Lee was pursued aggressively by both Texas and the New York Yankees this winter.
But the Phillies, who dealt Lee to Seattle in December 2009 to make room for Roy Halladay, quietly swooped in and signed Lee, forming a fearsome rotation that also includes former postseason MVPs Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.
Although Lee’s previous stint with the Phillies was limited to a little more than three months, he is celebrated in the city of brotherly love.
“I don’t know, you’d have to ask those guys,” Lee said of the adoration from the Philly fan base. “I’d hope they respect the way I play, I hustle, I give everything I’ve got each day. These fans can definitely sense effort; they understand the game, they’re educated fans.
“I would hope it’s that they respect the way I play. Obviously it helped that I had some success when I was here and helped the team get to the World Series. That’s got to be something to do with it, too.”
Lee’s work was finished Tuesday after he gave up two runs on one hit, one walk and one hit batter. He struck out three, walked one and threw a wild pitch.
Although Lee issued the fewest walks (18) of any major league pitcher last season, his new pitching coach wasn’t concerned about his control issues Tuesday.
“He’s still getting his spikes broken in. His timing isn’t there,” Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said. “He made some changes with his delivery and got out of sync, which is very, very normal. I thought his arm looked fine. He felt good. That’s what we’re looking for.”
NOTES: Philadelphia 2B Chase Utley’s return is still uncertain after he underwent an MRI on Saturday that revealed right knee tendinitis. “As long as we can have him healthy and ready to play on opening day, that’s kind of how I look at it,” manger Charlie Manuel said. … Detroit starter Andy Oliver earned the win, holding the Phillies to one run and two hits in three innings. He struck out one and walked two. … Phillies DH Domonic Brown, competing for the starting right field job, was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts. Brown is 0 for 12 with eight strikeouts in four Grapefruit League games.
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