Merry Cliffmas and happy Halladays

The Philadelphia Phillies may boast the best pitching rotation for 2011. (Shawn Carson)

The Philadelphia Phillies may boast the best pitching rotation for 2011. (Shawn Carson)

Christmas arrived 11 days early for Philadelphia when it broke in the early morning hours that prized pitcher Cliff Lee would be returning to the Philadelphia Phillies – one day shy of a year when they traded him away to acquire ace Roy Halladay.

Lee reportedly turned down two deals with the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees.  New York offered him a six-year, $138 million deal with a vesting option that saw the price increase to $154 million.

Instead, Lee took a discount to return back to the place that many believe he never wanted to leave in the first place.  He signed a five-year deal worth $120 million.

According to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, Lee would frequently text his former teammates on the Phillies and express how badly he wanted to return.

Zolecki spoke with Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino:

“We’re like, ‘Whoa,'” Victorino said. “I had heard about this mystery team. I was like, ‘There’s no way it’s us.’ Then I heard the Phillies were back in it. I texted Cliff last week and he never said anything. I texted him again today when everything started coming out. I’m like, ‘Come on.’ He finally texted me back, ‘I’m back,’ and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ I thought there was no way we’re bringing him back.

“You hear about a deal like this and you’re kind of shocked. But this shows how much Cliff loved Philly. He turned down money to come back. That says a lot about him.”

The Phillies will begin the 2011 season with a starting rotation featuring four Aces: Roy Halladay, Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. These four, dubbed the Phantastic Phour by Phillies fans, have combined for three Cy Young Awards, two NLCS MVPs, a World Series MVP and a World Series Champion.

The fifth spot in the rotation will likely go to either Joe Blanton or Kyle Kendrick.

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Categories: Baseball, MLB, Sports

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