M's ace Lee reports no setbacks

ATTLE -- Cliff Lee said he felt great after throwing 51 pitches in a simulated game on Friday, punctuating the session with fist bumps and high-fives.

The 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner remains on track to make his debut for the Seattle Mariners in two weeks.

Seattle's prized winter acquisition from Philadelphia said he threw all of his pitches with 100 percent effort. It was the ace left-hander's first work against hitters since he strained his abdomen on March 15.

"I feel as good as I feel in the middle of the season when things are going well," he said. "I just have to build up the tolerance to throw 100 pitches or so."

Lee was amped for the outing held before batting practice, about four hours before Seattle and right-handed ace Felix Hernandez hosted Detroit. Lee gave out fist bumps and high-fives to the hitters he faced -- teammates Eric Byrnes, Adam Moore and Matt Tuiasosopo.

"No pain. No pain at all. I feel perfectly normal," he said, explaining his arm feels like he's in the second or third week of spring training. "It feels good to face hitters. It's been a little while for me.

"It's what my job is," he added. "To get to work on that is definitely important."

Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik watched from the batting cage -- and felt like giving out fist bumps, too. His grand plan of having Hernandez, Lee and former Baltimore Orioles ace Erik Bedard 1-2-3 in the rotation is coming closer to reality.

"It was good -- really good. Exciting," Zduriencik said

Lee will throw another simulated game in Seattle on Tuesday. The ace left-hander will then have a minor league rehabilitation outing on April 25. The Mariners would like that to be with Triple-A Tacoma, depending on the weather in Western Washington on that day because the Rainiers play at home.

Once he's activated, Lee may begin serving a five-game suspension for throwing over the head of Arizona's Chris Snyder in an exhibition game. The Mariners have Lee penciled in to start May 1 or 2 at home against Texas.

Lee has appealed the suspension, and the Mariners expect to get word on that from the league by Monday.

Bedard, sidelined since August from shoulder surgery, threw another bullpen session on Friday. The left-hander could be back before June.

"If you're going to fast-forward to the future, on a Friday night we'll have Felix, on a Saturday we'll have Cliff and then there's Erik, who will be coming back. It's exciting to think about that," Zduriencik said.

"This is a positive step, a big positive step."