CLEARWATER, Fla. - All Cliff Lee can do now is wait.
Lee's MRI reports have been sent to Birmingham, Ala., the home of James Andrews. The orthopedic surgeon is the best in the world, Lee said. And the doctor's opinion could determine the Phillies lefthander's future in baseball.
Lee said he will likely miss the season and possibly more if his left elbow requires surgery. A recommendation from Andrews is expected sometime this week.
"It would be six to eight months out," Lee said. "So basically if I have the surgery this season will be done, possibly my career I guess. I don't know. We'll have to see."
The lefthander made his spring debut last Thursday. Lee said he felt fine until he warmed up his arm the next day. He felt "a little something" in his left elbow. It was in the same place that ailed him last season. It was not "majorly painful," Lee said. He said it had been months since he felt the pain. He said he immediately told the team's trainers and staff.
"It's just concerning because I knew what it turned into last year," said Lee, who was limited last season to 13 starts because of his left elbow. "And I just wanted to be open. I wasn't trying to hide anything. I truly felt nothing for months and then all of a sudden there it is after the first time I pitch in a game."
The 36-year-old is slated to earn $25 million in base salary this season. It is the last guaranteed season of his contract, which includes a $12.5 million buyout for 2016.
Lee had an ultrasound Friday at the Phillies spring training facility. He said you could still see the injury from last year, which Lee was told is normal. He had an MRI exam on Sunday, which he said revealed "some mild inflammation" around last year's injury. Lee said he hopes it is just a buildup of scar tissue. Andrews will give the team a second opinion, Lee said, and work with Phillies team doctor Michael Ciccotti on a plan for the pitcher.
"It's frustrating. There's still a possibility it's scar tissue and it's normal but there's also the possibility it's coming back and that's very frustrating," Lee said. "I just know I did everything to prevent it. That's really all I could do so there's nothing I look back and say, I should have done this, I should have done that."
Lee consulted this offseason with Andrews, Ciccotti, and New York Mets team doctor David Altcheck. He was told his elbow had a more than 90 percent chance of healing with just rest and a 3 percent chance that it would require surgery.
Lee took his chances with rest and rehabilitation. It was the obvious choice, he said.
"So potentially I'm the 3 percent that needs surgery and potentially it's scar tissue breaking up and it's normal," Lee said. "But I think it's early to know which one it is."
Lee planned to throw Monday but opted not to as he waits to hear from Andrews. He said he could throw Tuesday and anticipates feeling "a little something." And soon, the Phillies and Lee could learn if that little something is a big concern.