Last season, on the final day of July, Cliff Lee threw his 31st pitch of the evening to Denard Span of the Nationals. Chooch chucked the ball back and Tom McCarthy started yammering on about how the Mariners had acquired Austin Jackson earlier in the day.
Lee began to pace disgustedly, placing his hands akimbo slowly, one at a time, and chewing what appeared to be his own mouth. The medics trotted out for a gander and he eventually departed with a left flexor pronator strain, clucking f-words all the way.
And suddenly, his season was over. This was after a similar injury had kept him on the disabled list for two months prior, a trip from which he had only just returned and was making only his third start.
So today was a big day for the 37-year-old, who came out in his first spring training start, threw some pitches of optimal velo, and then got the hell out of there before some other stupid thing could happen. He faced four batters in the first inning, allowing a hit to George Springer who took advantage of the age-old offensive strategy of hitting the ball to Jeff Francoeur. However, Lee didn't walk anybody, or even throw a ball. All four outcomes of the batters he faced occurred with an 0-1 count. Neat!
Of course, this was where the narrative split and no one was sure what was going on.
Two factual statements, two different tenors. pic.twitter.com/W9gBy1SAc6— Eric Longenhagen (@longenhagen) March 5, 2015
Lee then threw a ball to start off the second inning, ruining everything. But it was at this point that his desire to move the game along without hesitation came into play, demanding the ball back before the pitch clock could even catch up. The batter eventually reached on a trickler that was overthrown to Lee who was covering first.
"I don't see Cliff Lee changing things," Larry Andersen theorized, as he and Gregg Murphy chuckled at Lee's famous need to have the ball back as soon as possible while Andres Blanco failed to turn a double play.
In what technically became a 1-2-3 inning, Lee induced three ground balls and, despite some inaccurate tosses in by certain infielders that allowed some base runners, managed to get out without allowing a run. He did throw five balls, which any expert will tell you is an amount of balls.
Then in classic mysterious/idgaf Cliff Lee fashion, he made the media wait for a long time to talk to him, leading some to consider abandoning their profession and disappearing into the surrounding marshes.
Waiting for Cliff Lee, looking for the Osceola County Stadium alligator... pic.twitter.com/fleEJutcEO— Ryan Lawrence (@ryanlawrence21) March 5, 2015
This will be an interesting year for Lee, as any success will make him an instant trade asset. He is entering the final phase of his career, and his health will remain an issue. He will also be battling the clock; no, not the relentless march of time, but rather the pace of play clock baseball is trying to institute, which may take it personally when Lee operates at a more efficient pace than science could ever devise.
Mmmm, yes. An interesting year indeed.