"It sucks, to be totally honest with you."
Those were the words of wordsmith closer Jonathan Papelbon before he even returned to the clubhouse following his second appearance of the spring. He said those words live and for everyone back in Philly to hear, in an on-field interview with Gregg Murphy.
His words pretty much summed up what everyone in the Phillies organization has been thinking since learning that Cliff Lee has a tear in his left common flexor tendon and could be facing a date with a surgeon in the near future.
Lee threw off the mound Wednesday morning. He said he still felt discomfort in his elbow. He will still attempt to contjnue to throw, hoping the pain subsides.
But since it's an injury he's dealt with for the last 10 months, and it hasn't gone away for good, he also knows the odds of pitching an entire season pain-free, while avoiding surgery, aren't very good.
Papelbon pretty much spoke for the entire organization when giving his own (sometimes funny, unintentionally) take on Lee's situation.
Q: What was your reaction to hearing about Lee's MRI results?
Papelbon: "Well I knew prior. Hearing today wasn't any new news. Like I said earlier, it sucks, man. Everyone in this clubhouse knows what kind of competitor he is and the knowledge of the game has to pass along to some of the young kids in this clubhouse. I don't know, man. It's kind of hard to put into words. It really sucks. But I do know that he's a great teammate, a great guy, and that he's going to do what it takes to get back and do everything he can to get back on the mound, I know that."
Q: You came into camp 3 weeks ago saying you were not on board with rebuilding, that this team can contend. But now that Lee is dealing with this, that is going to be difficult to do, right?
Papelbon: "Well he's one piece of the puzzle, and obviously a big piece for us. You know, somebody is going to have to step up. Someone has to. Plain and simple. Good teams have people go down and people gotta step up. That's basically what it boils down to."
Q: Do you plan on being without him, or think he can pitch through it?
Papelbon: "I don't know. I hadn't talked to him a whole lot. So I don't know. I'm not one to delve into people's business, I just, if someone wants to talk to me about something, I let them know what i think and they can take it or leave it. But, I don't know."
Q: Do you have a gut feel whether he'll try to pitch through it?
Papelbon: "No. No."
Q: Is this just a reminder that with pitchers, injuries can happen at any time?
Papelbon: "I think so. Any time you step out there and throw a baseball you have a chance or an opportunity for injury."
Q: Do you get any feel on how discouraged Cliff is, with way he loves to compete. You guys are close. Does he confide in you?
Papelbon: "Um, I mean, do you think that I would tell you what him and me confide about? No."
Q: But do you have a read…
Papelbon: "Do I have a read? I can read."
Q: ... on what type of disappointment is this for him?
Papelbon: "I'm sure he's really disappointed. I would be. Wouldn't you? Yeah. So. I don't know, man. I don't know what to tell you. But I can read."
Q: You really didn't understand the question. I said 'a read.' A noun, not a verb.
Papelbon: "Oh. Oh. Oh, like. Oh. Silly me. I mean, he's trying to deal with his emotions and what's going on the best way he can. It's tough. There's no set thing, like this is how it's got to be, this is what you have to say to the media and this is how you've got to act. … He's got to go day by day."
Q: When you see that happen, affect your own thinking as a vet, what could happen?