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June 29, 2010 at 8:17 PM

Cliff Lee is one cool customer

(Photo by McClatchy Newspapers. Cliff Lee and catcher Rob Johnson hug after Lee’s complete-game victory over the Yankees last night).
Cliff Lee is a master of control.
Tonight, that extended to the clubhouse after his third straight complete game — one which included that rarest of events, a Cliff Lee walk (but just one…or one fewer than Nick Swisher home runs).
Lee was surrounded by a large pack of reporters, and of course he knew what the main topic of questioning was going to be. Lee wasn’t about to be trapped into saying anything provocative or the least bit leading when trade speculation was brought up.
“It’s out of my control so I don’t even worry about it,” he said. “I’m a Mariner until they tell me something different. That’s where my focus is, and it’s really that simple. There is nothing else to it.”

Here’s how the Q and A went:
How much does Jack keep you informed?
“We talked about it, but I don’t expect to informed along the way. In Cleveland, I found out about it on ESPN on the bottom line and all over the place until I was officially told, so if it happens, I expect it to happen the same way, out of the blue. Like I said, there is really no other comment I can make other than it’s out of my control, so I don’t really think about it or worry about it. I am going to continue to try to help the Mariners win every time I take the mound and that’s it. If I wind up somewhere else, I will try to help that team win. It’s really that simple. It’s not complicated.”
Is it any easier having gone through it before?
“It’s the same thing. It’s not any more difficult. It is what it is. I have done it before so maybe that makes it easier, but you still have to learn another organization and what’s going on. But it is what it is. I’m a Mariner now.”
Does he have any preferences (for being dealt) — AL, NL, East Coast, West Coast?
“I mean, that is kind of a loaded question. I am going to choose not to answer it. Obviously, I do have preferences, but I’m not going to tell you who I want to play for – if I had a choice, and I don’t, so it’s pointless to consume time talking about it or worrying about it.”
And so it went. One thing for sure: Lee’s trade value, already high, is even higher after he shut down one of the best offenses in baseball.
Here’s Lee on pitching five complete games this year:
“I always have (wanted to throw the last pitch). It’s nothing new. I have always tried to go right at guys and go as deep into games that I can. Obviously, the ultimate goal is to throw the whole game, for sure. But you can’t do that without throwing strikes, working ahead and going right at guys. I had a couple of little lapses tonight when I got behind in the count, the first inning especially, and got away with some stuff there. Swisher got me. I got behind him in the sixth, 2-and-0 and he hit another homer. That’s what happens when you get behind in the count. I have to do a better job of working ahead and staying ahead, 0-and-2 rather than 2-0.”
How much did you enjoy pitching for a contender last year?
“It was great. We ended up in the World Series. It couldn’t have went any better. I did my job effectively and gave my team a chance to win when I took the mound. It was the perfect scenario for me and it worked out great.”
Are you excited about the prospect of pitching for another contender this season?
“I am excited about being a Mariner and helping the team win. You are not going to get anything other out of me except that I will try to help this team win every time I take the mound until I am told you are with another team. And then I will go and try to help that other team, if that happens. If it doesn’t, I will stay here and continue to help this team win. That’s the answer to all these questions. That’s all I can control, and that’s all I’m thinking. I have no control over it, so no need to talk about it.”
And the thing is, I truly think that’s the way Lee approaches baseball, to his great benefit. He focuses on the task at hand and tunes out the peripepheral noise, whether it’s a World Series game or a meaningless September outing. And that’s another reason why he is so coveted right now.



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