Some kind of matchup — Lee vs. Hughes

The second stop on a three-city road trip gets off to an impressive start tonight at new Yankee Stadium, just one of the several ballparks left-hander Cliff Lee is being rumored to wind up before the July 31 Trade Deadline.

In fact, the inquisitive person sitting next to me on the flight from Seattle to New York yesterday noticed my bag tag, asked me what I did for the company and after explaining that I covered the Mariners she asked: “Are the Mariners going to trade Lee to the Yankees?”

As I explained, that same question is being asked in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Arlington, Philadelphia and just about everywhere else on the MLB landscape that has a playoff contender.

It still appears that Lee will be dealt somewhere and perhaps sooner than later, so each time he starts a game for the Mariners, it might be his last in a Seattle uniform.

Tonight is one of those games and I have been wondering just who the Phillies sent to the Indians last season when they acquired Lee.

The answer: Minor Leaguers Lou Marson, a catcher, right-hand pitcher Carlos Carrasco and infielder Jason Donald, the only player currenly on the Indians’ 25-man roster and batting .254 with a .292 OBP.

The thing that stands out the most to me during Lee’s first (and probably only) season with the Mariners is the way he throws strikes — all the time. Four walks in 86 2/3 innings? Most pitchers could not throw that many strikes playing catch.

His spotless control will be put to a stern test tonight as the Yankees have a powerful, and patient, offense and have coaxed 308 walks from opposing pitchers.

Speaking to stern tests, the Mariners will face right-hander Phil Hughes in the series opener and, for the first time since last August 28, when a back injury ended his season prematurely.

It will be interesting, going forward, to see exactly how Branyan’s return has on the remainder of the lineup, which has been, as you know, run production-challenged the entire season.

We’ll get back to you later with the starting lineup.

— Jim Stree

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