CLEARWATER, Florida — Cliff Lee hopes to avoid striking out at rehab.
The four-time All-Star lefty was placed on the 60-day disabled list by the Philadelphia Phillies to attempt to rehabilitate an elbow injury without surgery. The team announced Monday (Tuesday, Manila time) that an operation was recommended.
Lee has a torn common flexor tendon and was told last week to stop throwing. It's the third time he tries to recover from the injury non-surgically.
"We tried twice and it didn't work, so it's fairly likely that it will remain the same," Lee said. "As we get closer to the threshold of being able to have the surgery or not to make it for next year, as we get closer to that I'll have a decision to make and obviously we'll know a lot more at that point."
Lee will be sent home to rest and begin a rehabilitation program. The 36-year-old Lee is entering the final guaranteed season of a $120 million, five-year contract.
Lee, the 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner, helped the Phillies win the 2009 NL pennant before he was traded to Seattle on the same day the Phillies acquired Roy Halladay from Toronto. He led the Texas Rangers to the AL pennant in 2010 before returning to the Phillies in 2011.
Things haven't worked out the way he hoped.
"We didn't win any World Series. That's what I came here for," Lee said. "Obviously, that's what we wanted, but there's 30 teams every year trying to do that. It's hard to pick a spot and for sure it's going to happen. You've got to make it happen. It takes 25 guys doing it. We fought as hard as we could. We got close a couple times. We got beat by the Cardinals in (2011). That was probably the best team I thought we had over those few years, but you never know. You never know what's going to happen until you play the games."
The rebuilding Phillies have missed the playoffs three straight seasons after capturing five consecutive National League East titles, two pennants and the 2008 World Series championship between 2007-11.
Losing Lee costs the Phillies an opportunity to trade him for younger players. But his decision to put off surgery means there's still a chance he comes back this season.
"The one benefit from our angle is at least he's giving himself a chance to pitch for us again this year by taking this route," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. "Clearly had Cliff elected to have surgery, we would have lost him for the year. So this may give him the chance, albeit it's not the greatest odds I guess, it still gives us the opportunity to have him on the field for us at some point this year."