Cliff Lee’s first pitch as a Seattle Mariner was a high, hard serving of honesty.
Speaking by phone Thursday with reporters who cover the Mariners, Lee didn’t mask his disappointment over being traded Wednesday from the Philadelphia Phillies.
“At first I didn’t believe it, because I had thought we were working out an extension with the Phillies and I would spend the rest of my career there,” said Lee, who was vacationing in Puerto Rico. “It goes to show that this is a business and you never know what is going to happen until you have a full no-trade clause.”
Lee didn’t say he was disappointed at being with the Mariners, but he made it clear that the team, the city and the opportunity to play in the postseason will be factors in whether he plays more than one season with the M’s.
Lee is signed for 2010 at $9 million and will be eligible for free agency after the season.
“I’m looking forward to helping the Mariners win and doing my job every time I take the mound,” he said. “But my initial reaction was disbelief and shock. After that set in, looking at the Mariners team, I like what they’ve got.”
The 31-year-old didn’t sugarcoat his feelings or toss out any over-the-top praise for a Mariners team he barely knows.
“I’ve got to get my bearings straight, get to know everybody and hopefully it turns into something like we had going in Philly,” Lee said. “They did a lot of things right and it was a wonderful experience. I hope Seattle turns into that.”
It will take some convincing for a native of Arkansas who has pitched eight games in his career at Safeco Field, all with the Cleveland Indians.
“It did seem like (Seattle) was on the other side of the world,” Lee said. “But once you got there it was a nice place and a lot of fun to play there.”
Lee said he also was uneasy after the Indians traded him to the Phillies in late July, but he learned quickly the value of a cohesive clubhouse, quality players and the thrill of pitching in the World Series.
Asked if he felt comfortable returning to the American League, Lee again spoke honestly.
“I’ve got to. There’s no other option. I’m going back,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here and be bitter about it. I’m a little disappointed, because of what we had going there with the Phillies. It’s a new chapter. I’ve got to go to the Mariners and make the best of it. It’s the same type of feeling I had when I got traded from Cleveland to Philadelphia. We’re not going to know until time plays itself out. I’ll go in with an open mind and do everything I can to help them win.”
Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said he won’t discuss an extension immediately with Lee, and Lee said he doesn’t favor the idea of negotiating during the season.
“Fundamentally, I’m opposed to that, because that can become a distraction and it ends up being about me instead of winning,” he said.“