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Indians' Lee out 4-6 weeks with abdominal injury

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Cleveland Indians pitcher Cliff Lee
will start the season on the disabled list because of an abdomen strain.

The lefty, who went 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA last season and is
46-24 since 2004, felt the strain in his right abdomen during a
throwing session early in spring training.

"The reality is I can't pitch until mid-April," Lee said after
being scratched from a scheduled throwing session when he felt
discomfort during training-room exercises Sunday morning.

The Indians hope Lee, their No. 3 starter, will at least be able
to resume throwing for the final two weeks of training camp.

"The symptoms persist," trainer Lonnie Soloff said. "Cliff
won't throw for seven to 10 days. Then we'll initiate a
return-to-throw program. We're approaching it as a four-to-six week
rehab."

This is the third straight year that a key member of the
Indians' starting rotation will be sidelined in April. No. 1
starter C.C. Sabathia was out for a month in both 2005 and 2006
with a strained muscle in his right side.

"It's frustrating to watch everybody getting ready and I'm left
behind a little bit," Lee said. "If this was late in the season,
I'd probably try to keep pitching through it. There's no sense in
doing something that could make this worse and really miss a lot of time."

Lee said he followed the same regimen this winter and was
surprised to feel the strain in his second bullpen session early in camp.

"It's just a slight strain that I can feel on my
follow-through," Lee said. "I told the trainers when I first felt
it because of my history. They thought it would be a three-day
thing."

Lee played catch a few days later and felt fine. When he tossed
the ball on the sidelines the next day, however, the ache returned
after about 20-30 throws and he was shut down again.

Right-hander Fausto Carmona likely will take Lee's spot in the
starting rotation, though veteran Paul Byrd or young Jeremy Sowers
could be moved into the third spot. Sowers, who went 7-4 in 14
starts after being called up from the minors last June, is listed
as the fourth starter. Byrd, 36, who was 10-9 with a 4.88 ERA a
year ago, is No. 5.