MINNEAPOLIS -- Rangers ace Cliff Lee is unlikely to make his start Tuesday against the Blue Jays because of continued soreness from a strained muscle on the right side of his lower back.
Lee played catch in the outfield Saturday, but did not go through with a planned bullpen session. Lee reported some improvement in the back, but still felt some discomfort and that was enough to keep him from throwing off the mound.
"I felt better today," Lee said. "I'm still a little sore from the shot but if there is as much improvement [Sunday] from today as there was today from [Friday[, we are definitely headed in the right direction."
Lee will play catch again Sunday and may try to throw off the mound. He still wants to pitch Tuesday, but the Rangers prefer to be cautious.
"He would like to start Tuesday, but we haven't made a decision," general manager Jon Daniels said. "We're going to err on the side of caution. Tuesday is not ruled out, but it's possible he may not start."
"Time will tell," Lee said about starting Tuesday. "I really don't know. I can't give you a hard answer. All I can do is come in, do what they ask me to do and hope it continues to get better."
Lee is 0-3 with an 8.28 ERA in his last five starts, with opponents hitting .333 off him, and he admitted that the back has been a problem for him over the past couple of weeks. He finally spoke up after his last start Tuesday against the Royals and was examined by Dr. Keith Meister on Thursday in Texas. Lee was given an injection to help relieve the pain and inflammation, and he still feels some soreness mainly in the area where the injection was given.
"The biggest thing is getting Cliff back where it is a non-issue," Daniels said. "We will, it's just a matter of timing."
If Lee can't go, Rich Harden could end up starting although he was still in the bullpen as of Saturday. Scott Feldman, who is on the disabled list with a bone bruise in his right knee, is another possibility. Feldman is scheduled to make a second appearance on medical rehab assignment for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Sunday, but the Rangers might pull him out of that start if they feel they will need him Tuesday in Toronto.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.