VIERA, Fla. -- Cliff Lee's first rehab start since going on the disabled list on May 19 was a short one, but the ace left-hander said he was confident that he would be rejoining the Phillies' rotation soon.
Lee's start Sunday afternoon for the Clearwater Threshers, the Phillies' Class A Advanced team, was cut short because of a rain delay in the bottom of the second inning of the Florida State League game at Space Coast Stadium, home of the Brevard County Manatees. Lee threw 24 pitches, 17 for strikes, before umpires halted the game 34 minutes after the first pitch.
"Obviously, I would have liked to have thrown four innings and get all my work in, but the weather didn't allow it, so I've got to go back to Clearwater."
Lee went on the DL almost seven weeks ago because of an elbow strain on his pitching arm. He rested the arm for three weeks before beginning a throwing regimen that included a successful bullpen workout last week in Miami.
"I didn't expect not to throw for three weeks," Lee said of his DL stint. "The initial part of it took longer than I thought it would. It's the first time I've had an arm issue, so I didn't really have anything to compare it to."
The plan Sunday was for Lee to throw 60 pitches and then possibly have another rehab start in five days, but he said now the tentative plan is to pitch again on Wednesday for Clearwater.
"In the grand scheme of things, it's not all that bad," Lee said after Sunday's abbreviated outing. "I felt fine. I threw two cutters and everything else was a fastball. You could see the weather coming, so I was trying to hurry and get through four innings, but that didn't work out as planned."
Lee allowed one hit, a leadoff bloop single in the first inning, but induced a double play to get out of a jam with runners on first and third. He retired the side in order, including back-to-back strikeouts, in the second inning before the rain came.
"Honestly, I wasn't too worried about the results, more about just getting my pitches in and facing live hitters," Lee said of the first inning. "It's a good thing to get in those kind of situations just to experience it, but I would have preferred to have three up and three down for four innings and go home, but that's not what happened."
Clearwater pitching coach Bob Milacki said that Lee looked "normal" to him.
"He looked strong start to finish," Milacki said. "He had no problem warming up, long tossing or in the 'pen. He went after hitters like he normally does."
Lee, 35 years old and in his 13th MLB season, said he's still not sure what caused the injury, but said it could just be from pitching for so long.
"Just throwing the baseball thousands of times, that's got to be what caused it," Lee said. "There wasn't like one instance where I did something. It just kind of came over time."
Lee said he has experienced no stiffness or a setback and is pleased with his rehab.
"Every time we've added something, it's responded well," he said of his elbow. "It's not 100 percent gone, but it's a lot better than it was when I was pitching with it for four or five innings."