Lee celebrates "historic" return to the Phillies

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Prized pitcher Cliff Lee celebrated his "historic" return to Philadelphia after signing a five-year, $120 million contract with the Phillies on Wednesday.

The most sought-after pitcher on the free-agent market, Lee turned down lucrative offers from the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers to rejoin the Phillies, with whom he spent a portion of 2009.

"It's been a whirlwind couple of years for me, it's been a fun ride," the 32-year-old said during a news conference at Citizens Bank Park where he was formally introduced to the team.

"This offseason has been full of unknowns and it feels great to land back here in Philadelphia. I never wanted to leave this place ... so to get an opportunity to come back and be part of this team and this pitching rotation is going to be something that's historic, I believe."

Lee, a left-hander who helped lead the Rangers to the World Series last season, will join a formidable Phillies pitching staff that includes National League Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.

"When you step back and evaluate your options and you get a chance to pitch in this rotation with Halladay, Oswald and Hamels, that's all I need," Lee said. "With this team and what they've accomplished, it was a no-brainer.

The 2008 American League Cy Young winner, Lee went 12-9 with a 3.18 ERA last season but he has thrived in the playoffs where he has gone 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA over the past two seasons.


An All-Star in 2008 and 2010, he was surprisingly discarded by Philadelphia after the 2009 season. He spent half of 2010 with the Seattle Mariners before being traded to the Rangers for their late postseason run.

"I never held any grudges for being traded," said Lee, who posed with his number 33 shirt before donning it for the remainder of the news conference. "I understand the business and things like that happen.

"From the moment I got here for the first day, I knew it was something that was special, something I enjoyed. I wasn't sure if I was going to get another opportunity to come back or not but, the way things played out, I got that opportunity."

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who sat next to Lee during the news conference, was delighted to regain the southpaw from Arkansas.

"We all know what kind of impact Cliff had for us," Amaro said. "He was extraordinary for us. Did I want to move him? No. But I'm certainly pleased that we had the opportunity to get him back."

A postseason standout, the heavily courted Lee decided to return to Philadelphia after being offered a seven-year deal by the Yankees and a six-year contract by the Rangers.

Over the last three seasons, he has the second-most complete games (17) among all pitchers in the majors, trailing only Halladay (27).

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Steve Ginsburg)