By Stephanie Storm
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: The Indians aren’t desperate to have Chen Chang “CC” Lee pitch in this three-game series against visiting Kansas City, the last stretch before the All-Star Break.
But at the same time, the Tribe’s deep thinkers wouldn’t mind seeing what the young right-handed reliever can do in his major league debut if the right situation presents itself.
“A lot of times you get stuck when you bring a kid up when you’re in desperate need of pitching,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “And that’s not a good time to do that. With the All-Star Break coming up, we can use [Lee] when we want and give him a chance to hopefully get his feet wet.”
Lee is the latest Indians minor league pitcher, in a recent line of them, to be called up to the majors for the first time. Like those before him, he is expected to pitch briefly and then likely head back to the minors for further development — regardless of how well he pitches.
Before Lee, 26, starters Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar and reliever Preston Guilmet had recently ridden the organization’s shuttle back and forth from Cleveland to Triple-A Columbus.
Ranked as the Tribe’s 10th-best prospect according to Baseball America, Lee has made 16 appearances throughout the organization’s farm system this season as he continues to make his way back from Tommy John elbow surgery.
Lee, 26, owns a 2.76 ERA and an 8-to-25 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 16⅓ innings this season, with opponents batting .127 against him. Lee signed with the Tribe out of Taiwan for $400,000 in 2008 and pitched for his native country in the ’08 Olympics and the ’09 World Baseball Classic.
One downside to Lee’s big-league promotion is the fact that he will have to forgo participating in the Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game on Sunday in New York along with the Indians’ other representative, high Class-A shortstop Francisco Lindor.
“[Lee] is a kid who was on the fast track early, had Tommy John, worked his way back and has been throwing the ball so well,” Francona said. “It gives us a chance to get a look at him and let him get acclimated not only to the major leagues, but to the competition and to us as a major league team and see how he’s throwing.”
Before Friday’s game, Indians manager Terry Francona admitted he hadn’t yet determined exactly how he’d use Lee.
“The reason behind calling him up is we have the luxury of carrying an extra reliever because the All-Star Break is coming in three days and we don’t need a starter until the fifth day out,” the skipper said. “So, it really gives us a free eight days of an extra reliever … it’s a chance to see where this can go, and we’ll see how he pitches.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.