C.C. Lee, Two Years Removed From Elbow Surgery, Ready To Breakout
Up until his July 14th debut with the Cleveland Indians, most of the chatter surrounding C.C. Lee centered around the fact that his name was a combination of the two former Cy Young Award winners, CC Sabathia & Cliff Lee, that the Indians dealt in 2008 & 2009 respectively.
The Indians signed the now 27-year old reliever as a free agent out of Taiwan in 2008 and he rocketed through the Tribe’s farm system, reaching the team’s Triple-A affiliate, Columbus Clippers, by the end of the 2011 season.
Lee spent his 2009 season with the High-A affiliate Kinston Indians, working an impressive 83.1 innings in relief and striking out 97 batters while walking just 23 (one intentional).
The 2010 season brought more of the same high workload with the Double-A Akron Aeros. With Akron, Lee worked 72.2 innings and again struck out more than a batter an inning (82) while walking just 22.
C.C. Lee began the 2011 season with the Aeros where he pitched in 23 games before being promoted to Triple-A Columbus. While in Columbus, he appeared in 21 more games. Overall, he worked a total of 71.1 innings, striking out 99 hitters while only walking 23 (2 intentional).
Unfortunately, the high workload came with a price. Early in the 2012 season, Lee began experiencing pain in his pitching elbow. The pain eventually led to Tommy John Surgery, thus wiping out the remainder of his 2012 season and limiting him to 33.1 innings in 2013 (4.1 with Indians).
Indians manager Terry Francona said the team brought up Lee in 2013 to get his feet wet, “His pattern has been he usually needs a little exposure first before he dominates. His minor-league career was like that and we hope that’s what happens up here.” At the winter meetings, Francona said the same thing but added that, “once he’s comfortable he can get pretty nasty.”
Baseball America rated C.C. Lee with possessing the best slider among pitchers and the eighth overall prospect in the Indians farm system entering 2014. His repertoire includes a sinker/slider that he throws from a very deceptive low three-quarter arm slot that causes trouble for right handed batters. His fastball, which ranges from 92-96, is an equally effective weapon. Like most pitchers that come back from TJ Surgery, his command may not have been all the way back as he walked an unusually high 13 hitters in 33.1 innings of work initially.
At the winter meetings Manager Terry Francona was asked if any young relievers were intriguing as options for the 2014 bullpen. Francona was quick to say that he wasn’t going to appoint anyone at that time, but the name that he did bring up was C.C. Lee. Obviously, he is at the forefront of the manager’s mind and he got his feet wet in 2013. He’ll look to become fully saturated as a big league reliever in 2014.