Big League Stew - MLB

SURPRISE! Ariz. — Cliff Lee(notes) says he already likes it in Seattle and the Mariners season doesn't even start for another 3 1/2 weeks.

That's how comfortable Lee appeared Wednesday, both during and after his Catcus League debut.

Five days after having an awkward performance in an intrasquad game, Lee pitched free and easy over three innings against the Texas Rangers, allowing a run and five hits with a walk in Seattle's 6-3 victory.

Lee threw with midseason precision — 46 pitches, 36 for strikes — and any thought of any discomfort he might have after offseason foot surgery was set aside. Lee did so well spotting his fastball he was able to work on his other pitches, a workout that was not on his original schedule.

What's more, Lee seemed happy with his location, as it refers to home plate and home.

"It didn't take me long to realize that it's good people here and a good organization," Lee said. "I like where I'm at. It's not a bad thing. It's not a bad thing at all."

When the Phillies traded Lee in December, he didn't see it coming, not at all.

But Lee's shock has turned to aww.

"It's a bunch of good guys here," Lee said. "It's not hard to fit in with this group. It's a lot of good people, from the coaches to the players to the trainers, everything.

"The management, they've done it right. And it didn't take long to see that. It's a good environment."

Is he so comfortable that contract extension talks are underway between his agent and the club? For the moment, they aren't. But could they be?

"I don't really want to have to deal with it during the season," Lee said. "That's how I view it."

OK, but is Lee open to signing with the Mariners?

"If I sign here, great. If that doesn't work out, that's good too," Lee said. "It's a win-win."

Near-love can be so confusing.

Lee probably hedged a little because he wants to enjoy the freedom, and leverage, of free agency. After having been dealt twice since this past August, Lee wants to experience what insiders call the "no-trade clause."

"I think every player wants that," Lee said. "Why would I not want that? I want everything that's going to help me out. ... That's part of negotiation." 

Many expect the Mariners to challenge the Angels and  Rangers in the AL West.

But if they don't?

"I could be traded again; you never know what's going to happen," Lee said. "That's the nature of this business."

But you love it here! Or at least really, really like it.

Lee was so comfortable during the game, he didn't notice a wild pitch during warmups that took a kooky bounce into the stands at Surprise Stadium and conked a man on the top of the head. The fan returned to his seat after visiting first aid.

Lee, who can be a little bland in the interview department, was talkative and loose after his outing. He even cracked wise about a slider he threw to strike out David Murphy(notes).

"It was nasty!" Lee said.

Is this Cliff Lee talking? I'm telling ya'. The dude's in love with being a Mariner.

At least I think he is. 

Dave's trek across the Cactus League continues. Follow him on Twitter — @answerdave.

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