Cliff Lee laments Tribe letting Guthrie slip away

Do you ever wonder what superstar pitchers think of other team's aces?

With the Phillies in Washington to take on the Nationals, I headed down Interstate 95 to catch up with 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee. You can catch the full interview Thursday on "The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report" at 5:30 p.m. on MASN.

Lee recalled the young talent he played alongside in the early millennium while a member of the Cleveland Indians.

Besides some guy named C.C. Sabathia, there was also a young first-rounder the Indians used out of the bullpen named Jeremy Guthrie.

The Tribe had high hopes for Guthrie, but after five shaky years, they placed him on waivers, trying to sneak him through while clearing a spot on the 40-man roster in January 2007. The Orioles claimed the righty and ever since he's arguably been the O's best pitcher. Today he's the Birds' No. 1 starter, leading a staff of young talents like Zach Britton, Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman.

By the way, the move to acquire Guthrie five seasons ago was made by co-GMs Mike Flanagan and Jim Duquette on the recommendation of Dave Trembley, who had managed against Guthrie in the minors and was taking over as the O's bullpen coach. Can anybody think of a bigger steal off the waiver wire in recent Orioles history? I'd be interested in your thoughts.

The Indians loss of Guthrie never sat well with Lee.

"I was kind of surprised the Indians let him go the way they did. He had talent. He just never had a chance to start. He was up and down. They used him out of the bullpen," said Lee. "I was glad he got a chance to end up where he did with a team that allowed him to start every five days."

In 2004, Lee was in his third year in the big leagues and on the path to becoming one of the better left-handed pitchers in the American League. In August of that year, Guthrie made his major league debut. Lee is only a few months older than Guthrie, but was light years ahead of the rookie.

In 2004, Lee won 14 games for the Tribe, while Guthrie made six lackluster appearances out of the bullpen at the end of the season.

In 2005, Lee won 18 games and finished fourth in the AL Cy Young voting. Guthrie spent the majority of the season at Triple-A Buffalo. He posted an ERA of 6.00 in just one big league appearance. Then, in 2006, Guthrie's 6.98 ERA in 10 appearances just didn't cut it. The Indians were willing to risk losing their former first-round pick.

Lee felt the move was premature. "I didn't doubt him. I got along with him really well. He had tons of talent," said Lee.

It's funny how things turn out. The kid, who many wrote off as a bust in his first couple of years in the majors, is now one of the Orioles' most valuable assets. To date, Guthrie has a career ERA of just 4.00 as an Oriole.

I'd be interested to hear Indians president Mark Shapiro's thoughts now on his decision to place Guthrie on waivers when he served as Cleveland's general manager.

As for Lee and Sabathia, I'd say they panned out pretty well.