Mariners' rotation could learn a lot from Lee

Mariners' rotation could learn a lot from Lee

ARLINGTON -- Cliff Lee could write a book on the art of pitching.

The Mariners' left-hander -- at least for the time being -- has been so locked into the strike zone during his past two outings, that of his last 219 pitches, 164 have been strikes.

"A lot of guys start 'pitching' before they have to," Mariners pitching coach Rick Adair said, "and Cliff doesn't do that. He executes."

Adair explained that "tempo and trusting what you do are critical" and until hitters start adjusting to his style, there is no reason to change.

Lee, who pitched a complete-game win over the Rangers on Monday night, threw first-pitch strikes to 28 of the 35 batters he faced, and went to a three-ball count only once in the entire game.

He was almost perfect when ahead in the count 1-2 against the Rangers, retiring 20 of the 21 batters he faced on that count.

On the following night, ace right-hander Felix Hernandez threw first-pitch strikes on 17 of the 31 batters he faced in a 7-1 loss.

So why can't other Mariners starters do the same thing as Lee?

"We have talked a lot about gaining confidence and it's simply accomplishing small tasks daily," Adair said. "When you get to where you are doing that, and believing in your preparation, it takes over in a game."

Lee's confidence and preparation are so good that he has walked four batters in 61 2/3 innings this season while striking out 57, 21 of them on called third strikes.

His performance, which includes a 4-2 record and 2.77 ERA, surely will make him the most sought-after pitcher by a contending team if the Mariners decide to put him on the trading block heading into the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

The 31-year-old is eligible for free agency at the end of the season.