WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Cliff Lee was scratched from his scheduled bullpen session on Thursday. And if this keeps up, you can scratch him from the Indians' season-opening rotation as well. Lee, 28, continues to be pestered by a strained right abdominal muscle that has kept him out of Grapefruit League action. He played catch twice earlier this week and was hoping to begin throwing off the mound Thursday, but his body did not cooperate.
Head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff said that the Indians will evaluate Lee again on Sunday. If the symptoms of the strain are still lingering by that point, Lee would be shut down from throwing for a period of 10-12 days, putting his start to the season in jeopardy. "He has not progressed to the point where he is ready to begin bullpens," Soloff said. "Early in Spring Training, we want to be as cautious and conservative as possible. At the same time, we understand the clock is ticking for Opening Day and his first start." If Lee is unable to begin the year on the active roster, right-hander Fausto Carmona would be the front-runner for the vacant rotation spot. "But we would leave all our options open," manager Eric Wedge said. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. We'd have to have an extended conversation about that." For now, the hope is that Lee, who went 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA in 33 starts last season, will recover by Sunday. "We'll have a better time frame, based on how he responds to treatment and rest over the next 48 hours," Soloff said. "If he's unable to progress his throwing by Sunday, his start of the season is questionable." The Indians are classifying this as a "mild" strain. They still don't think it's as severe as the abdominal strain and sports hernia that cost Lee the first two months of the '03 season. "We're going to try to remain optimistic," Wedge said. "We'll see how the next couple days go." Water damage: Just call it Chain of Leaks Park. Thursday's home game against the Phillies was temporarily delayed when a foul ball off the bat of Michael Aubrey smashed into a water pipe in the visitors' dugout, causing water to gush out onto the on-deck circle for several minutes. The Phillies players scattered away from the water, drawing a round of laughter from the fans in attendance. Chain of Lakes maintenance crew members were able to stop the spurt with towels, but it erupted twice more before the shut-off valve was finally discovered. "I think they finally got it stopped by the eighth inning," Aubrey joked. "I've never seen a water spurt like that before." Still hurting: Joe Inglett knows that his strained left hamstring isn't helping his case to be the Indians' utility infielder. "I need to be on the field to help my cause," he said. "Not being out there hurts me."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.