WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Cliff Lee didn't feel a sense of accomplishment Monday. "The season hasn't even started yet," Lee said. But when it does, Lee will be with the Indians.
In a move expected throughout camp, the Indians named Lee their fifth starter Monday morning. He beat out fellow left-handers Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers -- who were both optioned to Triple-A Buffalo -- because of his experience, his spring performance and his $3.75 million contract for '08. In other moves, the Tribe was waiting to make a move regarding reliever Aaron Fultz. "[Lee] came in here in outstanding shape, very determined, and he got better as the spring went along," general manager Mark Shapiro said of Lee, who had a 5.27 ERA in five spring starts. "He didn't always get the results, but he kept getting better and better. He consistently leveraged his fastball, his command in and out got better and better, and his secondary stuff was the best it's been." Lee, who is signed through 2009, had been a core member of the Indians' rotation, amassing 46 wins from 2004-06 and working 200 innings in '05 and '06. But he went 5-8 with a 6.38 ERA in 16 starts last year and was demoted to Buffalo. Lee said last year's humbling experience motivated him, and that showed in the early days of camp. His stuff stood out during the early pitchers' throwing sessions. When the games started, Lee had to battle through a sinus infection and some command issues. But he looked solid in his last two outings against the Phillies and Mets.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.