CHICAGO -- Let the American League Cy Young Award voting commence. Cliff Lee's Cy-worthy 2008 season officially ended Saturday, as the Indians left-hander was scratched from his scheduled Sunday start against the White Sox because of a stiff neck. The neck first bothered Lee last Sunday, two days before his outing in Fenway Park against the Red Sox, and has persisted enough that the Tribe doesn't feel the need to push him, even with the Sox fighting for a postseason berth.
"It doesn't make any sense at all [to start Lee]," manager Eric Wedge said. "There would be a chance of him changing his delivery [to compensate for the neck pain], and that changes everything. There's no way we're going to take that chance." White Sox fans, rejoice. The Sox will instead run up against right-hander Bryan Bullington, a former No. 1 Draft pick of the Pirates who was a reclamation project at Triple-A Buffalo in the second half of this season. Bullington (0-1, 5.59 ERA) has made two appearances for the Indians in September -- a spotty spot start against the Royals on Sept. 13 and an outstanding bit of long relief work Wednesday night in Boston, when he worked five scoreless innings. No matter what Bullington brings to the table, the Sox have to be happy to not have to face Lee, who was 1-0 with a 0.53 ERA in two starts against them this season. This call was not in Lee's hands. He was adamant about wanting to pitch, but he also understood the rationale behind the move. "I want to play, but I also don't want to go out without my best stuff," he said. "If my mechanics aren't right or if I'm not able to locate like I can, then why do it?" Lee certainly has nothing left to prove in a season in which he's gone 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA in 31 starts. He is one of just seven pitchers since 1920 to win 22 of his first 25 decisions, according to STATS Inc., and his 22 wins are the second most in club history for a left-hander. Only Vean Gregg, who won 23 games in 1911, had more. With an .880 winning percentage, Lee will finish tied with the Brooklyn Dodgers' Preacher Roe (22-3 in 1951) for the third-highest winning percentage for a 20-game winner. Only Ron Guidry, who had a 25-3 record and .893 winning percentage for the Yankees in 1978, and Lefty Grove, who had a 31-4 record and .886 percentage for the Philadelphia A's in 1931, rank higher. All that's left now for Lee, it seems, is to collect that Cy Young Award hardware. If he does, he'd be the second Tribe pitcher in as many years to win the honor, joining the since-departed CC Sabathia.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.