Lee's foot surgery won't keep him out long
Mariners lefty to throw first bullpen session on Wednesday
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mariners pitchers and catchers went through their first Spring Training workout on a sunny, warm Thursday morning at the Peoria Sports Complex, but left-hander Cliff Lee spent most of the workout indoors.
He continues to mend from a minor surgical procedure on his left foot to remove a "bony mass."
Acquired in a trade with the Phillies on Dec. 16, the 31-year-old Lee is expected to miss the first week of workouts.
"He will play catch, but basically we will try to keep him off his feet for a couple of days," manager Don Wakamatsu said before the camp's first workout. "What we're looking at is probably [next Wednesday] for his first bullpen, so it won't be that long."
Lee and the Mariners view the foot surgery setback as minor. When he returns to full-time activity, he'll have plenty of time to get ready for the regular season and join ace right-hander Felix Hernandez as one of the best pitching tandems in the Major Leagues.
Hernandez finished second in the American League Cy Young Award balloting following a breakout 2009 season -- 19-5 record and 2.49 ERA -- and Lee won the award in '08, when he compiled a record of 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA for the Indians.
"This is a minor deal that will slow me down a little at the start," Lee said, "but it won't take me long to catch up. I feel like I could go now, but it's a better-safe-than-sorry type of deal, so we're going to take it a little easy at the start."
This isn't the first time Lee has missed the first few days of camp.
He had an abdominal strain in 2007 and was unable to participate in Indians workouts.
"It was not a whole lot of fun," Lee recalled. "That was the second time I had a strain in that area, near my belly button on the right side, and I hope this is nothing like that. I don't think it is."
Speaking at length for the first time regarding his foot injury, Lee said that area of his foot had given him occasional discomfort in the past, "but it was nothing to the extent I felt a little more than two weeks ago when I was playing catch.
"I still don't know what I did to make [my foot] feel the way it did," Lee said. "There was never an instance where I thought, 'Oh, I know when I did this.' I knew something wasn't right after a couple of days, so I went to a doctor [in Arkansas] and then called the Mariners."
An X-ray showed a "bony mass" on the top of his foot, midway between his toes and ankle.
"I've always had a weird bump there and it would get sore from time to time," Lee recalled. "Apparently, something had broken loose somehow and it was irritating my foot.
"To be honest, I am glad that it was what it was. I thought it could have been something worse, like a broken bone, or even a nerve or tendon problem."
Given the option of having the mass removed prior to camp, or taking shots to numb the troublesome area throughout the season, Lee opted for surgery.
"After talking to [Dr. Bryan Burke] and [Mariners head athletic trainer Rick Griffin], I decided it was best to take it out and put it behind me," Lee said. "I didn't want it to be a lingering deal. It's going to be a good thing because I don't have to deal with the soreness I had before."
The Mariners agree wholeheartedly.
"The positive out of this is that this is a nagging injury he's had in the past, so to get it now, hopefully we won't see it again and it doesn't reoccur during the season," Wakamatsu said.
Added Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik: "It was much better to have the surgery as soon as possible, rather than try to pitch with the discomfort during the year. To get it out of the way and have it behind us is important."
Lee's current workout regimen includes playing catch and "doing upper-body stuff, shoulder stuff and core stuff. I haven't done any lower-body stuff since I had the surgery, which was two weeks ago Friday," Lee said.
"I am doing everything I can to speed up the heeling process and keep my upper body ready to go when it's time to use it," he added. "I don't want to do anything that might hinder the heeling process.
"Right now, it feels good and I don't want to do anything stupid to set it back."
Lee was traded to the Phillies midway through the '09 season and helped Philadelphia win its second straight National League pennant.
On the same day the Phillies acquired right-hander Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays, Lee was traded to the Mariners for right-handed pitcher Phillippe Aumont, outfielder Tyson Gilles and right-hander JC Ramirez.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.