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Indians send Lee to Minors
07/27/2007 3:02 PM ET
CLEVELAND -- A year ago, he was signing his name to a three-year contract extension.

Now, Cliff Lee is eastbound on Interstate 90.

Following another in a string of disappointing performances from Lee, the Indians optioned the struggling left-hander to Triple-A Buffalo on Friday afternoon. He will be replaced on the active roster by right-handed reliever Ed Mujica, who was called up from the Bisons.

The Indians' top starting option at Buffalo is left-hander Aaron Laffey (7-3, 3.22 ERA), and he could eventually replace Lee in the rotation. Left-hander Jeremy Sowers, who was in the Tribe's Opening Day rotation but was demoted to Buffalo in mid-June, is another option after posting consecutive wins for the first time this season.

For now, however, the club has the luxury of Monday's off-day to reshuffle the rotation and avoid the issue for another week.

Lee had two Minor League option years remaining. But because he was on a multiyear contract (the Indians gave him a three-year, $14 million extension last summer), he had to pass through waivers unclaimed before the Indians could send him down.

Lee's demotion comes a day after one of his most unsightly starts in a wayward season. He gave up eight runs -- seven earned -- on nine hits with three walks and a strikeout in just four-plus innings against the Red Sox in a 14-9 loss Thursday night.

For the season, the 28-year-old Lee is 5-8 with a 6.38 ERA in 16 starts. He missed all of Spring Training and the first month of April with a right abdominal strain and never found his form. He was 0-4 with an 11.70 ERA over his last four starts.

"I really don't know [what's wrong]," Lee said Thursday night. "It seems like if it's not one thing, it's another."

The Indians couldn't afford to be overly patient with Lee because they have another veteran, right-hander Jake Westbrook, enduring a similarly tough campaign. And while having one faulty rotation spot can be overcome, having two severely hampers a club's ability to win important series down the stretch.

"I feel our future this season is not going to be made by any trade we make," general manager Mark Shapiro said earlier this week. "It's going to be determined by how our starting pitching performs."

And Lee did not perform to expectations.

Mujica, the Buffalo closer, was 2-1 with a 5.79 ERA and 13 saves in 30 appearances for the Bisons. This will be his third stint this season with the Indians. He's given up nine runs over 7 2/3 innings in five games with the Tribe. His stay with the big-league club could be a temporary one, until the rotation is figured out.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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