SARASOTA, Fla. -- The three-man battle for the last rotation spot was on display Tuesday, as left-handers Cliff Lee, Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers all got their work in against the Reds. Lee, who had been out of action for four days while battling a sinus infection, was the only one who could call it a good day. He worked a scoreless first inning in his spring debut, giving up one hit but getting Ken Griffey Jr. to ground into an inning-ending double play.
"I felt like I threw the ball remotely close to where I wanted it to go," Lee said, "so I'll take it." The sinus problem prevented Lee from doing anything but playing catch the last few days, so he's a little behind in his workout routine. But at least he's got his health back. "It feels good to feel good," he said. Laffey, who took over Lee's starting spot when Lee was demoted to Triple-A Buffalo last season, was not feeling as good. He was all over the place in this outing. Scheduled to go two innings, Laffey lasted just two-thirds, giving up five runs on three hits with three walks and a strikeout. "I can't put too much emphasis on this, because then I can't move forward," Laffey said. "I'll go over what I did wrong, which was pretty much everything. It just seems like in the bullpen warming up, I'm right on, pinpoint, can't miss, then I can't get that to transfer over to the game." Sowers was also scheduled to pitch two innings, but the rain that cut the game short in the middle of the fifth got in the way. He went one inning, giving up two runs on four hits with a walk and a throwing error. The messy conditions brought on by the rain didn't help him. Wedge stressed that the Indians won't put all their emphasis on spring performance when making the decision on the fifth spot. He also said Lee's experience (he won 46 games from 2004-06) is a factor. "You look at what he's accomplished," Wedge said, "and it's normal that he's the first name you mention. ... You have to respect what Cliff's already done here, and I take that into consideration." The Indians also have to take Lee's contract into consideration. He's due to make $3.75 million this season. Second look: Every time the Indians play the Reds, they get a look at their past second baseman of the future. Brandon Phillips, of course, is firmly out of the picture now. And ever since the Indians traded him to the Reds at the outset of '06, only to watch him emerge as a star in the National League, they have tried to lessen the sting of his loss. The trade for Josh Barfield after the '06 season appeared to be the Indians' answer at second. But last year, as Barfield struggled, it was Asdrubal Cabrera who came out of nowhere to take over the job. It has been assumed that Barfield is ticketed for Triple-A this season, with Cabrera picking up where he left off and Jamey Carroll and Andy Marte filling the two backup spots in the infield. Wedge, however, has been careful not to make any outright statements about Barfield's near future.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.