SEATTLE - Six days before Cliff Lee made his first start as a Mariner, Pat Gillick showed up at his door. In his hand, Gillick carried a package: Lee's diamond-studded ring for being a member of the 2009 National League champion Phillies - the final tie to his 31/2-month tenure with the team.

Gillick lives about a mile away in Seattle from Lee, who is leasing Jamie Moyer's house. The former Phillies and Mariners general manager called the Mariners, who notified Lee to expect Gillick.

"He just came by and dropped the ring off," Lee said after making his season debut Friday night in a 2-0 extra-inning loss. "I've already put that behind me. I enjoyed it. It was a great part of my career. But it's over with."

It was an appropriate ending to Lee's whirlwind off-season - the shocking trade from Philadelphia to Seattle for three prospects, minor surgery on his left foot, a suspension that later was repealed, and an abdomen injury that delayed the start of his Mariners career by 24 days.

"I thanked him for his contribution to the club," said Gillick, the senior adviser to Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. "He had a lot to do with us getting to the playoffs and the World Series. I wished him the very best.

"That was about it."

The day after getting his ring from Gillick, Lee made his first and only rehabilitation start, at triple-A Tacoma. On Friday, he made his trademark dash out of the home dugout at Safeco Field for the first time.

Seven scoreless innings and 98 pitches later, Lee sprinted off the mound after striking out Texas' Ian Kinsler on an 86-m.p.h. change-up. An astounding 73 of his 98 pitches had been strikes.

"It went really well," Lee said. "To give the team a chance and not give up any runs, you have to be happy with that. I would have rather given up a couple of runs and helped the team win, but whatever. It is what it is."

It is . . . different. The Mariners, who have an American League-worst .653 on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, didn't score a run for Lee or any Seattle pitcher who followed him in a 2-0, 12-inning loss to the Rangers.

At cavernous Safeco Field, the power alleys are 16 feet deeper than they are at Citizens Bank Park. Seattle has hit a total of nine home runs in 23 games. But, as Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said, this is a team built around pitching and defense to complement the big ballpark.

So Lee's performance was what Wakamatsu had envisioned ever since that day during the winter meetings in Indianapolis when GM Jack Zduriencik stormed into the Mariners' suite to tell Wakamatsu and others they had a chance to get Lee from the Phillies.

"I thought he had had a couple of cocktails," Wakamatsu joked.

In the first inning Friday night, Lee needed just five minutes and 17 pitches to retire the Rangers in order. He didn't allow a baserunner until the fourth inning, when Michael Young singled with one out.

Before the game, Wakamatsu said Lee would be limited to between 90 and 100 pitches. The lefthander had thrown 89 pitches through six innings when Wakamatsu sent him out for the seventh. He retired the side on nine pitches, the final out coming on a strikeout of Kinsler.

"My pitches were working pretty well," the 31-year-old Lee said when asked about his off-speed pitches, which kept Texas off balance all night. He joked, "It's always nasty like that."

But in many ways, it's different. Lee went from calmly dominating the New York Yankees in Game 5 of the World Series to pitching for a team that was .500 in 22 games without him - an accomplishment with which Wakamatsu was absolutely content.

More than 34,000 fans attended Lee's debut. (It happened to be Felix Hernandez bobblehead night, too.) But in 2010, Safeco Field already has drawn three of the four smallest crowds in the 10-year history of the ballpark, which seats more than 47,000.

"Being the first time for the Mariners and first time at home, it went well," Lee said. "I couldn't have been any more excited about getting out there and getting it behind me.

"It was exciting. I had fun."

The Phillies chose Roy Halladay over Lee, primarily because Halladay was willing to accept a shorter contract, and decided not to keep both for 2010. Of course, it just so happened Halladay matched Lee's hot start with the Phillies in 2009: Four starts as a Phillie, 4-0 with a 0.82 ERA. Lee finished the regular season 7-4 and then went 4-0 in the postseason.

In spring training, Halladay said he understood he would be compared to Lee all season. On one early morning in the Phillies' clubhouse during spring training, an interview with Lee played on the TV. A player turned up the volume as Lee spoke about how shocked he was to be traded. Cole Hamels turned to Halladay and joked, "It's all your fault, Roy."

"I think that's what baseball is," Halladay said at the beginning of spring training. "I think everybody is always comparing different players. I think that's how they decide who is the better player."

And as Lee continues to make his starts in the Pacific Northwest, they will be of great interest in Philadelphia, where every starter not named Roy Halladay has had his struggles in 2010, whether it be inconsistency or injury.

One of those starters, 47-year-old Jamie Moyer, was in Seattle - one of his many residences - when Lee was introduced as a Mariner. He drove Lee around the city and mentioned he was looking to rent out his house. Lee jumped on it. ("So far," Moyer said, "he hasn't burned it down.")

Lee is living alone in Moyer's house until the school year ends and his wife and two children head to Seattle. It almost certainly will be a brief stay. Lee is likely destined for free agency after the season as the most coveted pitcher on the market.

So for now, the Phillies ring sits on top of a dresser.

"It's something I'll cherish forever," Lee said. "Hopefully, I'll get the real one next time. But it's the next best thing."

Contact staff writer Matt Gelb
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