Cliff Lee named AL Comeback Player of the Year

Josh Weir

One award is already in. The big one should come later this winter.

Indians pitcher Cliff Lee is the American League’s Comeback Player of the Year. The award was announced Tuesday but probably could have been handed out in July.

Coming off a disappointing 2007, Lee went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA this season.

The lefty was the AL¹s All-Star Game starter and became the Indians’ first 20-game winner since Gaylord Perry in 1974.

“I had never seen a year like that, not from start to finish,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. “I’m sure he’s going to be busy this winter.”

Lee, whose 11-game winning streak was the longest in the big leagues since 2005, appears to be the frontrunner for the AL Cy Young. That would have sounded like a joke this time last year.

Lee was left off the Tribe’s postseason roster, the punctuation to a season that saw him never catch up from a spring training abdominal injury. He missed the first month of the season and later spent five weeks in Triple-A.

He finished 5-8 with a 6.29 ERA.

The 30-year-old Arkansas native, who had averaged more than 15 wins a season from 2004-06, committed himself to getting his physical and mental game together in the offseason. Soon, that work was paying off.

“It didn’t start right away in spring training,” Wedge said. “You kind of saw him progress, and then he locked it in. And then to lock it in and hold on to it, it takes a lot of discipline and a lot of toughness.”

Lee, who won the AL Pitcher of the Year Award for April and August, never threw less than five innings in any of his 31 starts this season. In only four outings did he allow five or more earned runs.

Lee led the American League in wins, winning percentage (.880), ERA and fewest walks per nine innings (1.4). He was second in innings pitched (223 1/3) and complete games (four).

Phillies closer Brad Lidge, who saved all of his 41 opportunities this season, was the National League’s Comeback Player of the Year. The awards were voted on by the beat reporters representing each of the 30

major league teams.

Canton Repository