PHILADELPHIA – Cliff Lee(notes) confesses he is a product of a regular, unbending routine. He also says he volunteered to come out of it to pitch on short rest for the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday night in Game 4 of the World Series. He obviously wasn't convincing enough for manager Charlie Manuel.
While Yankees starting pitchers lined up to pitch on short rest, Lee was kept to his regular schedule, because, Manuel said, “You're asking Cliff Lee to do something that he has never [done] before. But we're also asking him to do it in a very big, important place, and that's in the World Series.”
Manuel and Lee discussed the possibility before the series. Apparently, the conversation was brief. Manuel believed the World Series was no place to start “messing with Cliff Lee,” which does not explain why Manuel would approach Lee about it to begin with.
More likely, Lee told Manuel and Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee he'd take the ball in Games 1 and 4 (and presumably be available for Game 7), but was not persuasive.
As a result, New York Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia(notes), a veteran of short-rest starts, opposed Phillies right-hander Joe Blanton(notes) on Sunday night at Citizens Bank Park. A.J. Burnett(notes), who pitched Game 2 for the Yankees, will oppose Lee in Game 5 Monday night. Andy Pettitte(notes), who threw 104 pitches Saturday night, is in line to pitch Game 6 (against Pedro Martinez(notes)) if necessary, and Sabathia is expected to come back for a potential Game 7. Cole Hamels(notes), whose ERA in four postseason starts is 7.58, is on schedule to pitch Game 7, but Manuel would not commit to pitching Hamels again.
Lee pitched a career-high 231 2/3 innings this season. He appeared to tire in spots near the end of the season, about a month after he'd been traded from the Indians, but has been very effective in the postseason, where his ERA is 0.54 in four starts. He allowed only an unearned run in a complete game at Yankee Stadium in Game 1, then went back to his routine for Game 5.
“It was a pretty quick conversation,” Lee said, “[Manuel] asking me if I had ever done it and me telling him no and saying that I think I could. Basically that was about the extent of it. … I just let him know I'd pitch whenever he wants me to pitch. I think I could do it, but he makes the calls.”
That, apparently, was that.
“I thought I made it pretty clear,” Lee said. "I'm not disappointed or mad or frustrated or anything. My job is to pitch when Charlie wants me to pitch, and that's what I'm going to do. … I'm not going to try to second-guess anything like that. I would have been happy either way.”
In Game 5, he'll either pitch to fend off elimination or to give the Phillies a one-game lead going back to New York. Meantime, the Phillies were hoping for a lightning-strike win from Blanton and, perhaps, an off night from Sabathia.
Lee would watch Game 4, however, on his routine.