Cliff Lee: "It's great to be back in Philadelphia"

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee poses for photographers after a baseball news conference, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010, in Philadelphia. Lee and the Phillies finalized a $120 million, five-year contract that brings the star pitcher back to Philadelphia. (AP Photo) ((AP Photo/Eric Gay))
December 15, 2010 4:08:55 PM PST
Cliff Lee and the Phillies have finalized a $120 million, five-year contract that brings the star pitcher back to Philadelphia.

Lee spurned more lucrative offers from the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers to return to the Phillies, who traded him away exactly one year ago to this day after he helped them reach the 2009 World Series.

"It's great to be back in Philadelphia," Lee said Wednesday at a news conference at Citizens Bank Park. "I never wanted to leave this place in the first place. To get an opportunity to come back and be a part of this rotation is something that can be historic."

The deal was reached late Monday night, and Lee arrived in Philadelphia late Tuesday night. The contract was announced Wednesday after Lee passed a physical.

The two-time All-Star and 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner helped the Rangers reach their first World Series this year. He chose to rejoin the Phillies and combine with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels to form a dynamic starting rotation. He will wear No. 33.

"That was the main thing, to be a part of that rotation," Lee said. "And with this team and what've they've accomplished, it was a no-brainer."

The 32-year-old Lee will earn a modest $11 million salary next season. Including an option for 2016, the deal could be worth $135 million for six seasons.

Lee was 12-9 with a 3.18 ERA in 28 combined starts last season between the Seattle Mariners and Texas. He led the Rangers to their first postseason series victory with a pair of wins against Tampa Bay in the first round, and tossed a two-hitter against the Yankees in the ALCS. But Lee lost twice to the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.

This will be the fourth time Lee changes uniforms in the last 17 months. He was traded from Cleveland to Philadelphia to Seattle to Texas. He finally was able to choose his destination, and he took less money to return to the Phillies.

"There were a lot of variables," Lee said. "I enjoyed my time in Texas. We had a good team and made the World Series. Sometimes making these decisions is tough. When you get your family involved and weigh all your options, it became an easy decision with this team and this pitching staff and what they've accomplished over the years. I like the National League. I like hitting and I like facing the pitcher instead of the designated hitter. This is a special group of guys."

Lee said the way Yankees fans treated his wife and the wives of his Rangers teammates during the postseason had no impact on his decision. He denied reports that someone had spit on or poured a drink on his wife, Kristen.

"It was way overblown," Lee said.

A fourth-round selection by the Montreal Expos in the 2000 draft, Lee is 102-61 in his major league career with a 3.85 ERA in 222 games. He's 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA and three complete games in 10 postseason starts with 80 strikeouts in 76 innings.

The addition of Lee gives Philadelphia a dream rotation. The Phillies' top four starters have three Cy Young Awards, 13 All-Star game appearances, two NLCS MVP awards, one World Series MVP award, one perfect game and one postseason no-hitter on their resumes. The Phillies have won four straight NL East titles and reached the World Series twice in that span, winning it in 2008.


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