Cliff Lee returned to the pitching mound on Monday.
It remains unclear when he'll truly be back.
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Despite physically pitching in his first game since May 18, Lee looked nothing like his former self in the Phillies' 7-4 loss to the Giants on Monday. Lee allowed 12 hits and six runs over 5 2/3 innings in the outing, seeing his ERA jump from 3.18 to 3.67 with the beatdown.
Lee's velocity was down in the start, a partial explanation for his struggles and somewhat of an expected occurrence after a left elbow strain kept him on the shelf for more than two months. Lee was also hit hard in his final rehab start last week, allowing eight runs in 4 2/3 innings for High-A Clearwater.
For his part, Lee didn't sound too down about his performance after the game.
"I felt good physically, I just wasn't able to locate," Lee, who will make one more start before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Hopefully, I can iron that out between now and my next start."
It remains to be seen what Monday's outing -- and his next outing, against the Diamondbacks this weekend -- will do to his trade value. Despite only coming off the disabled list Monday, Lee's name has been prevalent in trade discussions as one of the rare frontline starters who may be available at the trade deadline. Lee may actually be the more obtainable of the two between he and David Price, as Price's year-plus of team control at a relatively reasonable salary will make the Rays' trade demands that much more prohibitive.
ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reported that scouts from the Tigers, Blue Jays, Orioles, Brewers, Angels, Royals, Giants, Rangers, Diamondbacks and Pirates were in Philadelphia to watch Lee pitch -- and to watch others on the Phillies and Giants, presumably. It's safe to assume that the Tigers, Jays, O's, Angels and Giants, among others, had more than a passing interest in Lee's start.
Even after Monday's disastrous return, fantasy owners should continue to trot out the southpaw in hopes that he'll regain his form sooner than later.
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Rumor Has It
Lee isn't the only one drawing interest these days.
Tis the season for trade rumors, and plenty were bandied about Monday as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline moves ever closer. One of the most popular names being discussed continues to be Jonathan Papelbon, and one of the most popular teams rumored to be looking for help continues to be the Tigers. It's no great surprise, then, that the Tigers are said to be "keeping tabs on all relievers, including Jonathan Papelbon," according to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Joakim Soria, Joaquin Benoit, Brad Ziegler and Antonio Bastardo are other names that have been connected to the Tigers in recent days. The Dodgers are at least one other team that is believed to have interest in Papelbon.
The A's, the club that made the first big move of the trade season, are also said to be busy. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported the A's are locked in on Nick Franklin as a trade target to shore up their second base spot. In an unrelated development, recently demoted left-hander Tommy Milone -- whose departure coincided with the team's move to acquire Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel in the aforementioned blockbuster -- has asked to be traded, per Rosenthal. His request is both understandable and not likely to happen, as the A's would be hard-pressed to deal away quality starting rotation depth.
Alex Rios, one of the biggest names who has a chance of being moved at the deadline, is said to have caught the fancy of the Royals. KC has a troubling lack of pop -- they remain at the bottom of MLB in home runs hit this season -- and they presumably view Rios as a player who can provide some help. Jake Peavy, a player whose name has been in the headlines since before the All-Star break, is reportedly still on the Cardinals' radar, though Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe described him as on the team's "back burner."
Injuries Hit National League West
Two National League West teams -- one in contention, one not -- received some bad news Monday.
The Giants, tied with the Dodgers at the top of the division, received two big blows when they placed Matt Cain on the 15-day disabled list with elbow inflammation and saw Brandon Belt land on the 7-day concussion DL after he was hit in the face with a thrown ball over the weekend.
It's another bad break in a season that has proven to be a series of unfortunate events for Cain, who is 2-7 with a 4.18 ERA in 15 starts. A silver lining may be that the move was retroactive to July 11, meaning he could be activated as early as Friday. Although that may be a long shot, Cain said Monday he doesn't foresee a long DL stint.
"I'm not exactly sure, but I'm pretty optimistic that it shouldn't be too bad," Cain told MLB.com.
Justin Morneau, who, unlike Cain, has enjoyed a great amount of success this season, also hit the shelf Monday. The first baseman was placed on the 15-day DL with a neck strain that had kept him out of action since before the All-Star break. Rockies manager Walt Weiss said despite being a neck injury, the current ailment is not connected directly to the neck surgery that hampered Morneau in 2011.
"Not exactly, it's not the same spot," Weiss told the Denver Post. "We are always cautious with 'Morney' when it comes to his neck, but it's not exactly the same thing. ... He's had issues from time to time."
National League Quick Hits: Troy Tulowitzki was out of the Rockies' lineup for a second straight day after a quad cramp forced him from Saturday's contest. Tulo is day-to-day for now, but missing time is always a concern that something greater is at hand with the oft-injured shortstop ... X-rays on Hanley Ramirez' left wrist came back negative, but the shortstop missed Monday's game as a precaution. Ramirez was hit on the wrist by Trevor Rosenthal during Sunday's ninth inning, but he should be back in the lineup any day ... Ian Desmond had a day Monday, going 5-for-5 with a home run, two RBI and three runs scored ... Josh Beckett (hip) will be activated from the disabled list and will start Tuesday's game against the Pirates. A labrum tear and two cysts in his hip have sidelined Beckett since July 6, but he'll attempt to pitch through the ailments after a cortisone shot helped relieve the pain ... The Giants signed Dan Uggla to a minor league deal ... Henderson Alvarez was cleared to make his scheduled start Thursday after taking a comebacker off his left shin during Saturday's game. The right-hander has a 2.64 ERA through 20 starts and faces a streaky Astros offense in Thursday's tilt ... An MRI on Michael Wacha's right shoulder brought promising news for the Cardinals. Cards general manager John Mozeliak said the hope is that Wacha will be able to begin a throwing program in two weeks, with a timetable that could put him back with the Cardinals "in early September."
American League Quick Hits: Roenis Elias had struck out eight over 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball before a cramp in his left forearm forced him from the game ... Asdrubal Cabrera left Monday's game with back spasms ... C.J. Wilson (ankle) threw a bullpen session without incident Monday, his first bullpen since being placed on the disabled list. He'll likely require a rehab start before returning to the Angels rotation, so a return in early August appears to be a reasonable projection ... Eric Hosmer was scratched from the lineup Monday due to a bruised right hand. He was hit on the hand by a pitch Sunday, but X-rays showed no break and he remains day-to-day ... Erick Aybar sat out a third straight game due to sore right groin. Angels manager Mike Scioscia expressed hope the All-Star shortstop will be ready to return on Tuesday ... A mild lower lat strain will sideline Mark Teixeira for the next three to four days. The Yankees are still optimistic the injury won't require a trip to the DL ... The Angels signed John Buck to a minor league deal. Buck was released by the Mariners earlier this month ... David Ortiz homered twice as the Red Sox pounded the Blue Jays 14-1. Ortiz had just one home run in July coming into the game ... Not to be outdone, Adam Jones hit two home runs in a win over the Angels. He had one home run in 24 career games at Angel Stadium before Monday's contest.