An hour and a half before Friday night's game, Cliff Lee walked in from right field after tossing the ball around with other Phillies pitchers and looked long and hard into the Texas Rangers' dugout before waving to a couple of familiar faces.
Lee knows that his buddies on the Rangers would like to beat him, and he feels the same about them. It's nothing personal. It's business, and the lefthander is all business.
Lee, of course, left the Rangers and signed with the Phillies after helping Texas reach the World Series last season, just as he helped the Phillies get to the World Series the year before. He will go against the Rangers on Saturday in the second game of a three-game interleague series at Citizens Bank Park, and he figures they'd like to show him what they thought of his leaving.
"I'm sure," Lee said before Friday's game. "Yeah, I mean, you want to try to beat everyone, especially the guy who didn't come back to your team. So I'm sure there is some incentive for them to beat me, but there should be, because that's the way it is, and I'm going to try to keep them from scoring."
There's a striking similarity in Lee's experiences with the Phillies and the Rangers. The Phillies acquired him at the trade deadline in 2009. The Rangers acquired him around the trade deadline last year. The difference, though, is that the Phillies chose not to re-sign him even though he wanted to stay. The Rangers wanted to re-sign him, and so did the New York Yankees, but Lee wanted to return to the Phillies, forever endearing himself to the club's fans.
Who knows how Phillies fans would have felt had Lee gotten the chance to beat them in the World Series? That nearly happened. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. would have had to bar his doors.
"There were a lot of similarities between this team and that team, and I told those guys that when I was there," Lee said. "They reminded me of the Phillies. There was a lot of life and they were a lot of fun to play with. It was a good run. I wish them all the best."
Lee said sure, it will feel a little different pitching against the Rangers, but insisted his will to win won't be any different.
"I feel like I can separate that from the competition," he said. "Obviously, I played with them and had a good time over there, and I know the talent that's in that clubhouse, so I've got to do everything I can to make sure I give my team a chance to win. It's still a normal game."
Like the Phillies, Texas has some gaping holes in its lineup because of injuries. Outfielders Josh Hamilton, the 2010 American League MVP, and Nelson Cruz are injured and rehabilitating in the minors.
"Josh Hamilton, in my opinion, is the best player in baseball, so anytime he's not in the lineup, that increases the other team's chances of success," Lee said. "Cruz isn't in the lineup, either? Yeah, I like that, too. But they've got a good lineup even without Hamilton or Cruz. That's why they went to the World Series."
Lee will be looking for his first win since April 14, largely because he has received little run support.
On second thought
Shane Victorino went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring. The centerfielder suffered the injury Saturday at Atlanta, yet the Phillies didn't order an MRI until Thursday. The Phillies couldn't make his DL stay retroactive to Saturday because Victorino was sent in to bunt Wednesday night.
"In retrospect, we probably we should have done it [the MRI] earlier," Amaro said.
Amaro suggested that Victorino, as well as pitcher Joe Blanton, led the club to believe their injuries weren't serious.
"When we ask our players [about injuries], we have to rely on what they tell us," he said. "With some guys, you have to take it out of their hands, and sometimes you don't. Hopefully, we learned a little bit of a lesson."
Worley on the way
Amaro said that Vance Worley will take Blanton's place in the rotation, but likely won't be called up from Lehigh Valley for a couple of days.
"We'll hold off on it a little bit," he said.
Amaro also said that an MRI on Blanton, who will go on the DL when Worley arrives, showed his elbow injury was exacerbated.
"Evidently, he's got some new discomfort," he said. "He had some medial problems in the joint, and now he's got lateral issues that added to the discomfort."
Blanton seemed to dispute Amaro's assessment.
"It's the same thing," the righthander said. "Structurally, nothing got worse."
Utley in DH role
Amaro said Chase Utley was coming along during his rehab stint with Clearwater, and left open the possibility that the second baseman could join the team during this homestand, which ends Thursday.
"We're not sure," he said. "He felt pretty good yesterday after his game."
Utley was the designated hitter for the Threshers on Friday night and scored the winning run in the ninth inning after getting hit by a pitch and stealing second. He was 1 for 3 with a seventh-inning single.
"We'll see where he is tomorrow," Amaro said.
Former scout Henry J. "Hank" King Jr. filed an age-discrimination civil suit against the Phillies in Eastern District Court that accused them of unlawful termination. He is suing for punitive and compensatory damages, claiming he was terminated on Oct. 21, 2009, at the age of 65. A Phillies spokeswoman said the team cannot comment on pending litigation. . . . Amaro said a rehab program will be set up for Brad Lidge, who threw from a mound Thursday for the first time since he went on the DL with a partially torn rotator cuff. . . . Reliever Jose Contreras will make a second rehab appearance Saturday with Reading. . . . The Phillies called up David Herndon and sent Scott Mathieson to Lehigh Valley to have a fresh arm in the bullpen.