Stiff neck could sideline Lee for Sunday

Stiff neck could sideline Lee for Sunday

BOSTON -- Cliff Lee has been a pain in the neck to opposing batters all season. Now a pain in his own neck might keep him from making Sunday's start in Chicago.

Lee's status for Sunday was already up in the air, as the Indians are considering sitting him if the White Sox's playoff fate is determined by that regular-season finale. And now that Lee -- the likely American League Cy Young Award winner -- is dealing with a stiff neck, his chances of making the start are lessened even further.

Manager Eric Wedge didn't make Lee's neck condition out to be serious, describing it only as "a little stiff." But the Indians, obviously, wouldn't have much incentive to push Lee, who didn't throw his regularly scheduled bullpen session on Thursday.

"He got treatment on it [on Wednesday]," Wedge said. "We'll see how he feels [on Friday]."

Lee's stuff has lacked some of its luster his last three outings, in which he's gone 1-1 with a 5.06 ERA. The loss on Tuesday night at Fenway Park was his first since July 6.

If Lee (22-3, 2.54 ERA) does make his 32nd and final start on Sunday, he'll have a third opportunity to become the Majors' first 23-game winner since Barry Zito and Randy Johnson in 2002, as well as the chance to tie Vean Gregg's record for wins by a left-hander, set in 1911. Lee has had two other shots at those honors, and they resulted in a no-decision against the Twins and the loss to the Red Sox.

Before the neck stiffness was divulged by Wedge, Lee said that he would like to make Sunday's start.

"It's not my decision," Lee said. "My job is to pitch when they want me to pitch, and that's what I'll do. I definitely want to pitch every chance I get."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.