Cliff Lee was limited to 13 starts while battling elbow soreness last year.
The pain in the same area returned after just one, two-inning start in 2015.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Lee will be temporarily shut down after getting an MRI on his left elbow. Lee will miss his next turn in the rotation.
"As a precaution we decided to have him examined by Dr.(Michael) Ciccotti," Amaro said. "Dr. Ciccotti examined him. We did a static ultrasound study on it. That study very similar to the studies he's had before. So we decided as a precaution to make sure, we did an MRI on him yesterday. It was an arthrogram MRI so we injected dye because we wanted to make sure. Again, the result was very similar to what we saw last year. Very mild, I guess, inflammation in there. Nothing really alarming except now that he's had that arthrogram MRI we have to wait a day or two until he starts throwing again.
"We are going to send those pictures of the MRI to Dr. Andrews to take a look at them for precautionary measures. He's going to start his throwing program again either at the end of the day Monday or Tuesday. Once the dye stuff is out of his arm and then we'll progress accordingly."
The Phillies (and Lee) obviously hoped to see the pitcher progress this spring without any issues. Had Lee stayed healthy, he could have been a nice trade chip for Amaro and Co. ... and Lee himself could have potentially joined another team prior to the July trade deadline as he pursues an elusive World Series ring.
But now, the Phillies and Lee are back to the same place they were last summer.
"You have to be alarmed, we have to be concerned because it's the same area he feels something," Amaro said of the Phillies lefthander. "It's the same area, the same issues he had last year."
Here's more from Amaro prior to this afternoon's game in Port Charlotte:
Q: Any chance this is just a 36-year-old elbow?
Amaro: "That's always a concern when you have a guy who feels something in his elbow, whatever it is."
Q: Why not alarmed if it's the same as last year?
Amaro: "None of the area that is supposed to be affected has changed. There's no change from the last MRI we did once he finished. And he had thrown so much since then without really feeling anything until this last outing. We shouldn't say it's not alarming because it is of concern. It's the same area. But there's no increase in the original affected area.
"According to Dr. Ciccotti there's a one- to two-millimeter area in length that was of some issue. And then the width is one centimeter or something like that. It's very, very small, a very pinpointed area. And again there's very little edema or swelling or fluid in that area. But anytime it's the elbow you've got to be concerned about it."
Q: You're confident it's the flexor and not UCL?
Amaro: "There's nothing, nothing the matter with his UCL."
Q: Sometimes older arms wear down and guys pitch through stuff as they get older, correct?
Amaro: "And he may have to, yeah he may have to pitch through it and see what happens. There's a couple of different things that can happen. He can pitch through it and there could be scar tissue breaking up that could be resolved. He did start to throw the next day, on Friday and Saturday he threw. And as he threw, he got better. Typically it's the other way around. You don't want it to get progressivley worse. But you have to be alarmed, we have to be concerned because it's the same area and he feels something. .. It's the same area, the same issues he had last year."
Q: Is surgery an option? Can it fix it?
Amaro: "A lot of it will depend on what (Dr. James) Andrews says, but everybody has kind of been on the same page with this, that if they do have to do a surgery and have to clean away some of the 'bad stuff' in there, it's a real small area. If it ends up having to get repaired it's 6-8 months. So I don't know. I think ultimately it'll be a decision for Cliff later on. But a lot of it will depend on how he's feeling when he starts throwing again."
Q: Was there a decision made last year about that, surgery, fighting through it, etc.?
Amaro: "There was no recommendation from Ciccotti, Altcheck, Andrews, none of those guys recommended because of the nature of the injury. It was such a small area that there was no recommendation for surgery at that time. All of them felt like it was resolve itself, which in essence it did, but now something in there is nothing him again, and we have to take as much precaution as possible just to make sure it doesn't progress. Hopefully it doesn't."