Cliff Lee’s Back Is Bothering Him

A few weeks ago I wrote a blurb about Cliff Lee and noted how many innings he was throwing and wondered out loud if it would carry over to next season. As it turns out he didn’t even make it that far before the innings total began to effect him as his back has been acting up.

Here’s more via ESPN:

Texas Rangers starter Cliff Lee complained of back discomfort after Tuesday’s start and flew back to Texas to be examined by Keith Meister, the club physician.

Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said tests revealed no structural damage and that the issue was muscular. Lee received a trigger point injection, which the club hopes will reduce inflammation and allow him to stay on track.

The fact that his back issues are just muscular is good news for the Yankees and any other teams interested in signing Lee during the offseason.

I would also say that it’s fortunate that the Yankees didn’t land Lee at the trade deadline, but as soon as Texas acquired him they really started piling on his innings total. Although it might not have mattered as Seattle was piling on his innings as well.

From May 28th until August 6th, Lee threw less than eight innings only once and averaged almost eight and a half innings per start. His pitch totals in each game weren’t sky high, but that’s a ton of gearing up, stopping and starting each game and it does, obviously, take a toll.

Again, there is good news. Hopefully this will be a red flag for Texas and they will take it easy on him from here on out. If they do, because this is a muscular problem and not structural back issues, rest will likely help him out in a big way and if the Yankees do sign him this offseason, he should be fully healthy and ready to go next season.

It’s weird writing this article and being concerned for a potential playoff opponents ace starter. This is a special case though as Lee is going to be a free agent this offseason and likely the Yankees no. 1 target.

About Rob Abruzzese

Rob Abruzzese created Bronx Baseball Daily in 2008 just before graduating from Brooklyn College. He currently serves BBD as its editor and works as a reporter at the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Follow Rob on Twitter @RobAbruzzese.
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32 Responses to Cliff Lee’s Back Is Bothering Him

  1. Mike S. says:

    Not to mention if the Yanks have to face Lee in the playoffs…

  2. Mikebk says:

    with the huge lead they have in the west they should shut him down for a start or two.

    • Rob Abruzzese says:

      That's exactly what I was thinking. Even if they gave him two starts off it wouldn't be a big deal and he would still have enough time to get sharp for the playoffs.

  3. chase says:

    why would lee want to go to new york where he will be just another great player thrown into an overstacked and overpaid team where hell just be another pitcher instead of staying in texas where the people support their players no matter what and where he can get advice from the greatest pitcher of all time Nolan Ryan

    Dont Mess With Texas

    • Rob Abruzzese says:

      1. Nolan Ryan is not even in the top 10 best pitchers of all-time. 2. It's about the money. 3. I've heard a lot of criticism coming from Texas actually and I didn't read or hear a single person sticking up for him out of Texas when Colin Cowherd accused him of dogging it because he was waiting to become a Yankee.

    • DallasDude52 says:

      I agree with Chase for the most part but obviously Ryan's not THE greatest of all time… so I'll agree with you guys there but Hall of Fame means one of the best??? How about that? I DO think his presence here has improved the mental preparation and outlook of our Rangers staff. Team ERA under 4.00… that's fabulous for our boys!

    • Rob Abruzzese says:

      I definitely agree with that. The Rangers never scared me in the past despite some very potent offenses because they never had the pitching to back it up. Since Ryan has joined the team's front office that has certainly changed. I'm just glad that Harden has been mostly a bust because if he was pitching to his potential, the Rangers would be one dangerous team.

  4. Mike S. says:

    Greatest pitcher of all-time? Ok. 7 no-hitters. 5714 K. Did you know his 2795 walks is ALSO a record? 324-292 is a winning pct. of .526. A team with a .526 winning pct. goes 85-77 in the course of a year. I'm not saying that Ryan wasn't great. He was. But best ever? Please.

    Can you name me how many CYA's Ryan ever won? Guess what. You can't. Because the answer is NONE.

    Ironically, his best year could have been 1987, when he led the league in ERA and K and went 8-16. I understand the lack of support, but his 162 game average was 14-13, 3.29. ERA+ 112. There are many with a better ERA+.

    If you want the greatest pitcher, give me Walter Johnson. His lack of support equalled or surpassed Ryan's. Ryan won 20 games twice in his career.

    Johnson is 2nd on the all-time list with 417 wins. Granted, dead ball era. 19-13, 2.17 for his 162 g. average. ERA+ 147 to Ryans' 112. Granted dead ball era, but the guy threw 110 shutouts. No one else is CLOSE to that. I believe #2 has barely HALF of that.

  5. Mike S. says:

    I should add…the number of games Johnson LOST 1-0 is ridiculous.

  6. john H says:

    Mike, where did you get your numbers, grover alexander has 90 shut outs! I didnt realize 90 was less than half of 110?? I want you to go out find someone who played as long as Nolan Ryan and was as consistent as he was over their career. I am not saying he is the greatest but he is probably top 10 when you look at what he did for as long as he did it. Also Nolan had 61 shut outs and he was 7th on the all time list.

    • Mike S. says:

      Forgot about old Pete. My bad. But 110 shutouts. Alexander 20 behind. Then you drop to #3 at 79. That's significant falloff just from #1 to #3. The point is, most of today's pitchers won't get half the 110 shutouts Johnson had. Ryan didn't clear half by that much. With closers today, you'll be lucky to see anyone hit 50 in their career.

      Someone who played as long as Ryan? Hmm. Length doesn't amaze me, unless Jamie Moyer, Tommy John or Don Sutton really wow you. (All good pitchers, but… ) I speak of dominating, which Ryan could do. But 21-16 doesn't wow me. 24-9 does. Ryan was great. He won 20 games in a season TWICE in his career. I can come up with ten pitchers I would take over Ryan. Did all of them win 324? No. Will you discount Koufax because Koufax "only" won 165? He's definitely in my top 10. As for my top 10? Ryan may not even make it.

  7. Rob Abruzzese says:

    I don't think Nolan Ryan would even be in the top 10. And I find it hard to believe that his career wasn't at least extended by steroids.

  8. Chris Ballard says:

    Wow, Nolan Ryan is not one of the top ten pitchers? You must value wins alot in your pitchers ratings. Be easy on us Ranger fans, we are a little skiddish when it comes to supporting pitchers here, they never seem to pan out when we get a big name free agent. I like Lee alot but he has struggled so far for us this year.

  9. Rob Abruzzese says:

    Off the top of my head I would rather have Clemens, Maddux, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Walter Johnson, Cy Young, and Tom Seaver. That's 7 off the top of my head that I would rather have than Ryan. If I dug, I'm sure I could find 3 more.

  10. Chris Ballard says:

    Did you just say Ryan was on steroids? What an idiot. Nolan Ryan was about heart and putting all out every day for his team regardless of record and standings. If he had played for the Yankees you would be in LOVE with him. You said it yourself, 5 thousand strikeouts 7 no hitters 300 wins, in an era where the ball was so freakin hard you could drive nails with it. Talk about 1 to 0 loses, look how many times Ryan lost no hitters by one or two hits. You are exactly why people hate the Yankees, it has nothing to do with the team and everything to do with the fans. If its not about the Yankees you dont like it. What a Jackwagon!

  11. Rob Abruzzese says:

    Yeah I said steroids, at least in the 90's. Everything you said to describe him could be said about Roger Clemens as well and we all know how that's going for him. I've always suspected Nolan Ryan was on steroids at the end of his career. How many other power pitchers pitch into their 40's?

    Also, I found 3 more pitchers I'd rather have than Ryan, Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove, Christy Matthewson. I'm not saying Ryan wasn't good, but he's terribly overrated, especially by Texans. His adjusted ERA+ is a pedestrian 112.

  12. Chris Ballard says:

    You can keep Clemens, He's a douchebag, Maddux would have been shy about 70wins if he pitched in the A.l. and Johnson pitched with a hacky sack. My guess is you never played the game at a level above tball.

  13. Chris Ballard says:

    You cannot compare Clemens and Ryan, completely different people. Clemens tried to accomplish what Ryan did by taking steroids. As did alot of pitchers that came up idolizing Ryan. You answered your own question about pitching into their 40s, noone! Thats what made him who he was. Faced him when he was 46 years old and still threw 92. Dont think he needed steroids then or in the 90s. The guy was a freak of nature, not a freak of steroids.

  14. Rob Abruzzese says:

    I told you to get lost and I meant it. Last thing I need is some anonymous poster telling me about his playing career.

  15. Mike S. says:

    Hmmm…a list I'd consider:

    Ford, Pedro, pre-steroids Clemens, Maddux, Smoltz (got to take the relief years into consideration), Randy Johnson, Palmer, Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Mathewson, Hubbell, Marichal, Carlton, Spahn, Alexander, Koufax, Seaver, Feller, Grove, Gibson, possibly Three-Finger Brown, hate to say this, but Schilling (the guy did come up big in big games, can't take that away from him),

    So would Nolan be in my top 20? Most likely so. Top 10? No.

    • Mike S. says:

      Should include Addie Joss (shame what happened to him), Big Ed Walsh, like Koufax, was dominating for too short a time… Eddie Plank…

  16. Chris Ballard says:

    Mike, Palmer was my hero growing up and all of the guys on your list were dominant. Numbers wise there will always be an argument but Ryan will always be one of the best in my book simply because of how he handled himself regardless of what team he played for. I really dont see Smolz or Maddux ahead of Ryan though.

    • Mike S. says:

      Smoltz…better postseason numbers (and of course, more postseasons). Maddux the CYAs, which Ryan never won. I have to take Ryan down a tick for the 5-2 lead he couldn't hold in Game 5 of the 1980 NLCS. Granted it's just one game, but in a list this subjective, that is all it takes to grade one over another. For example, Gibson over Ryan for me because of Gibson's 7-2 WS record, 3 WS wins in 1967, 2 WS MVPs, 17 K in game 1 1968… Subjective, yes, but… Same with Koufax. Short career but dominating. His 1963 and 1965 WS performances…

  17. Chris Ballard says:

    See your side for sure, and probably might think differently had I seen the others up close like I did with Ryan ya know. But his numbers are still really impressive you have to admit. As was his presence on the mound, just ask Robin Ventura, lol.

    • Mike S. says:

      He and Seaver of course, came up almost together. Ryan actually made it to the majors first (Ryan 9/11/66; Seaver 4/13/67 and Tom won the ROY in 1967; Koosman's debut? The day after Seaver). Seaver, of course, established himself as elite at an earlier stage in his career than Ryan did, same with Kooz.

      But both Ryan and Seaver understood the importance of the legs to a pitcher. When you look at the legs of Ryan, Seaver or Clemens (discounting the steroid use), you see the power of the legs and hips in power pitchers.

      The Mets of the early 70's couldn't hit. But that Ryan for Fregosi trade? Ugh. What a rotation of Ryan (once he established himself), Seaver, Koosman and Matlack could have been.

      Didn't know this until just looking it up. Ryan's debut on 9/11/66? Guess who hit the first HR off Ryan? Joe Torre.

      The walks hurt Ryan. Heck, he had two years of over 200 walks. Don't know if you knew this (a bit of trivia). In 1977, Ryan gave up more walks (204) than hits (198). He did the same in 1970.

  18. Chris Ballard says:

    Thats alot of walks! Never really thought of Ryan as wild but its obvious for someone to have that many strikeouts they would have to make ALOT of borderline pitches so the walks kinda make sense. curiuos now to know what his strikes to balls ratio was over his career. But I would still put him in my top ten alltime. longevity has to count for something.

  19. Rob Abruzzese says:

    longevity and health counts for a lot in my book. Nolan Ryan is definitely considered one of the top pitchers baseball history in my book. But I think there is a decent amount of people who overrate him. But you are right, longevity and health are big. For instance, I think Pedro Martinez is a better pitcher, but if you're putting together a team, you might pick Ryan over Pedro because Pedro broke down so much and you can't contribute from the DL (unless you are Aaron Boone).

  20. Chris Ballard says:

    Wow, thats rough….funny, but rough!

    Back to the original argument. I do agree with one thing (believe it or not) that if the Rangers don't shut down Lee and Hamilton, for that matter for a while it will be a huge mistake.

  21. Rob Abruzzese says:

    Absolutely, they have a big enough lead that they don't need to be leaning on these guys so much.

  22. Chris Ballard says:

    I can only hope that his back is the only problem, because he has not looked good his last few starts. Maybe I am just gunshy though, 30 years of sufferage will do that to you!

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