SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Seattle Mariners ace Cliff Lee was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday with an abdominal strain, an expected move given the 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner's health troubles this spring.
Lee is still only throwing on flat ground, which he did Sunday morning on a windy, chilly day at the San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park under the close watch of athletic trainer Rick Griffin. The Mariners open the season Monday across the bay against the Oakland Athletics.
"He's had a history of these and it's been six weeks. We're hoping to cut off a couple of weeks," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said.
"The first time he threw he still felt it so we backed off. There's no timetable. We're taking baby steps right now. He has to get his pitch count back up and we hope there's progress without reinjuring it. He'll throw off a mound in a couple of days."
Veteran designated hitter Mike Sweeney made the team, having his contract purchased from Triple-A Tacoma. The 36-year-old Sweeney arrived at the ballpark early Sunday and was called into the manager's office by GM Jack Zduriencik to get the good news.
"Did you sign your contract?" teammate Ken Griffey Jr. asked Sweeney.
"It's official," Sweeney said.
"Happy Easter," responded Griffey, offering Sweeney a fist bump.
"He was a vital leader on this club last year. I've been with him the last three years and this is the best shape I've seen him in," Wakamatsu said. "He's lighter, leaner, and he had knee issues last year and there's not trouble now. He was a long shot but knowing his makeup, I felt even before camp started he was at least going to make it hard on us to decide."
Sweeney attended 7:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday, then arrived at the ballpark at 8:45 and went straight into a meeting with Zduriencik.
"The last three spring trainings I was told I had hardly any chance to make the team," Sweeney said of his seasons with Oakland in 2008 and last year with Seattle. "Thank God it all worked out. Each year's gotten progressively worse, the odds. If Butler can make the finals, a guy like me can make a team."
Sweeney, who played in 74 games last season, batted .500 (20 for 40) with two home runs and 10 RBIs in 14 exhibition games this spring. That did plenty to impress the brass.
Zduriencik called it "funny" bringing in a 15-year big league veteran to sign his major league contract.
"Here, I'll literally take my hat off to Mike Sweeney," Zduriencik said, removing his cap. "It's a reflection on what he did to prepare himself. Often that goes unnoticed. ... He said, 'You have no idea how much this means to me.' I said, 'Mike, you have no idea how much it means to us.'"
Also Sunday, Erik Bedard threw off a mound and Wakamatsu said he "looked good." The left-hander is recovering from August shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum.
Zduriencik is encouraged about Bedard's rehabilitation. The same goes for Lee.
"Erik's progressing very nicely," Zduriencik said. "Cliff, he's smiling ear to ear and wants to get rolling."
Lee has a hearing April 14 to appeal a five-game suspension and fine he received from the league for throwing over the head of Arizona's Chris Snyder on March 15. Lee had collided with Snyder earlier in the game while backing up the plate on a scoring play.
The collision resulted in Lee's current injury.
Seattle's other roster moves included reassigning four players to minor league camp: right-hander Jesus Colume, catcher Josh Bard and infielders Josh Wilson and Chris Woodward.
"When you think what this can be, it could be a lot of fun," Zduriencik said of his club.