BRADENTON, Fla. – Despite giving up a pair of home runs in only his third spring training start, Cliff Lee says he's ready for the season.
Lee threw about 60 pitches Friday in the Philadelphia Phillies' 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates and said he could've thrown 100.
"I'm right where I need to be," he said. "It's just a matter of getting to where I'm locating more consistently. And today I did that better than I have my previous outings."
Lee allowed three runs and five hits in 4 2-3 innings. He walked one.
Pirates starter Kevin Correia tossed four shutout innings, giving up only one hit in his best outing of the spring.
"It was just a matter of trying to be a little more efficient," Correia said. "I think I've thrown all right my other outings. I think my pitch count was a little higher than I wanted it to be in my previous outings in spring training. Today, I was a lot more efficient."
The team's opening-day starter last year had two strikeouts against a Philadelphia lineup missing most of its stars.
Hunter Pence, one of the few Phillies' regulars to make the trip, struck out in two of his three at-bats.
Starling Marte, the Pirates' top outfield prospect, led off the first by taking Lee deep, sending a 2-1 fastball over the wall in left field. It was the second home run of the spring for Marte, who is hitting .500 with 17 total bases in 20 at-bats.
Despite his spring success, the Pirates remain committed to sending Marte to Triple-A to start the season. He finished 2011 in Double-A.
"We're not going to change our mind," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We want a complete package when he comes up here. He's got some work to do."
Jake Fox hit his second home run of the spring, driving a 1-0 changeup over the left field wall to give the Pirates a 3-0 lead in the fifth inning.
Lee said his home run pitches to Marte and Fox were left over the plate — and while he feels strong, his location will be a focal point through the remainder of spring training.
Kyle Kendrick relieved Lee with two outs in the fifth inning and finished the game, striking out five batters over 3 1-3 scoreless innings.
Evan Meek, a 2010 All-Star who missed most of last season with a right shoulder injury, had his second consecutive scoreless outing.
"It's just a repetition thing at this point," Meek said.
The Phillies scored twice in the ninth inning off Bryan Morris, though both runs were unearned. With runners on first and second, Morris got Juan Pierre to ground out to second to end the game. The Phillies were 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
NOTES: The Phillies released left-handed pitcher Dontrelle Willis. A two-time All Star with the Florida Marlins, Willis was competing for a spot in the bullpen. The Phillies also reassigned catcher Steven Lerud to minor league camp Friday morning. . Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown (stiff neck) was scratched from the lineup for the second consecutive day. He took batting practice Friday morning but was still having issues. . Pirates catcher Rod Barajas returned to the lineup three days after his wife gave birth to the couple's seventh child, daughter Starlette Barajas, in San Diego. He was 0 for 2 with a strikeout.