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Halladay can sympathize with Lee

Halladay can sympathize with Lee

CLEVELAND -- Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay went from an American League Cy Young winner in 2003 to an eight-game winner in '04.

So he probably knows how struggling Cy Young winner Cliff Lee is feeling right about now. Halladay outdueled Lee on Saturday at Progressive Field, as Lee fell to an 0-2 record and 9.90 ERA in this young season.

"I think teams come out gunning for you a little bit [the year after a Cy Young]," Halladay said. "But more than anything, it's just getting that good feeling that you had the year before. Sometimes you get that early on in a season and it carries out through the rest of the year. You're always trying to get that feeling back."

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Halladay and Lee now share a dubious distinction. According to Elias Sports Bureau, they are the only reigning Cy Young winners in the last 10 years to lose their first two starts of the season.

Lee has more than just his Cy Young defense on his mind these days. It is the job of an ace to put a stop to his team's losing skid, and Tribe pitching coach Carl Willis thinks Lee might have taken that job too seriously Saturday, when the Indians fell to 0-5. Lee turned in his second sketchy start of the season in giving up four runs on seven hits with four walks, five strikeouts and a wild pitch over five innings of a 5-4 loss to the Jays.

"Obviously, guys are pressing a little bit," Willis said, "because we're off to a difficult start. I think that's what happened with Cliff."

The problems Lee has had locating his fastball are an early concern. Thus far, he's looked less like the guy who went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA last season and more like the guy who, even in the midst of successful seasons, had trouble staying efficient from 2003-07. The Indians felt he was overly reliant on his fastball during that time.

"He learned last year to use his changeup, slider and curveball more often," Willis said. "His stuff is better now than it was [from 2003-07]. It's just a matter of commanding it and using his offspeed [pitches] to get off the hard stuff."

Lee began mixing in his curveball more often toward the end of Saturday's outing, with encouraging results. He might stick with that plan when he makes his next start Thursday in the Yankee Stadium opener.

"He's a strong-willed guy," Willis said. "He's showed he can deal with adversity before."

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

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