Lee named AL Pitcher of the Month
Left-hander went 5-0 in five April starts with a 0.96 ERA
CLEVELAND -- Cliff Lee holds modest expectations for the rest of his season.
"I don't expect to have a below-1.00 ERA," Lee said with a smile.
But because he owns just that heading into May, the Tribe's resurgent left-hander was named April's American League Pitcher of the Month on Saturday.
Lee won running away, going 5-0 with a 0.96 ERA while striking out 32 hitters in April. And what's more, his start has taken on a historic note. Lee's .163 on-base percentage allowed over his first five starts is the best in 99 years and he became the first pitcher since Pedro Martinez in 1997 to win his first five starts with an ERA under 1.00.
"I thought he had a pretty good shot at it," manager Eric Wedge said. "That's a strong accomplishment. Well deserved."
This from a guy who just two months ago was fighting to make the team as the fifth starter. And a guy who, after a solid spring, the Indians simply hoped would offer some stability to the back end of the rotation and begin to recover from a disastrous 2007.
Guess it's safe to say Lee is back. Looking like the pitcher who went 18-5 and finished fourth in the Cy Young Award voting in 2005, Lee has been unhittable at best and excellent at worst.
"It's been going my way," Lee said.
The reasons for Lee's turnaround have been well-documented. After missing most of Spring Training and the season's first month last year, Lee has been healthy from the start this year. It has showed in his fastball command and his ability to get ahead in the count with nearly every hitter.
Wedge also said he has seen a singularly-focused Lee this season.
"His focus and concentration out there have been tremendous," Wedge said. "You'll never hear me underestimate how important that is. That's a separator. What you're seeing with him is pretty real."
In that light, Lee does not plan on resting on his April success.
"I'm really more concerned about the team winning, and winning games," Lee said. "It's nice winning [April] Pitcher of the Month, but we've got a long ways to go. So hopefully I can continue to pitch the way I have."
Just don't expect that ERA under 1.00 to stand.
After all, "it's the big leagues," Lee said. Lee, who will receive a trophy and a Sharp AQUOS HD LCD-TV, is the second straight Indian to win AL Pitcher of the Month. Fausto Carmona won the award last September.
David Briggs is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.