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Lee Turns Down Yankees and Rangers to Rejoin Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee smiles during a baseball news conference, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010, in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee smiles during a baseball news conference, Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010, in Philadelphia.

Major League Baseball pitcher Cliff Lee never wanted to leave the National League's Philadelphia Phillies, the team he helped lead into the 2009 World Series. Even though he got back into the championship this season with the American League's Texas Rangers, the left-hander felt at home in Philadelphia. And the Phillies will be getting the two-time All-Star back as Lee chose to sign with the team this offseason.

Cliff Lee, one of the most highly-touted free agents during baseball's offseason picked the Philadelphia Phillies over other top suitors, the 2009 World Series champion New York Yankees and this year's runner-up, the Texas Rangers.

This marks the 32-year-old Lee's return to the franchise that he helped guide into the 2009 World Series. To Lee, it was an offer he could not pass up. "I never wanted to leave this place in the first place. So, to get an opportunity to come back and be part of this team and this pitching rotation is going to be something historic, I believe. I can't wait to get to spring training and get this thing going," he said.

Signing with the Phillies meant Lee spurned both Texas and the New York Yankees, who offered him longer contract terms and much more money. Instead, Lee accepted a five-year $120 million deal with Philadelphia, with an option for a sixth year.

The decision joins Lee with three other star pitchers Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels. With a talented line-up, the two-time World Series runner-up Lee said he expects the Phillies to contend for the championship next year. "That's what I expect. I've been close the past two years and haven't got a [World Series] ring. That's what it's all about. I think this team is more than capable of doing that and that's what I expect. That's what everyone on this team should expect," he said.

The rest of the Phillies organization is glad to have Cliff Lee back as well. Despite trading him away last year to complete a series of deals that landed Halladay in Philadelphia, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is embracing the return of Lee. "Did I want to move him? No. But I'm certainly pleased that we had the opportunity to get him back," he said.

The 2008 Cy Young Award winner Lee certainly has a soft spot for the Philly faithful. His family likes Philadelphia and Lee enjoys what the passionate fans bring to the games. "Every game has got an elevated feel to it compared to everywhere else. I mean, it's completely different. I don't know what the fans do to create that much more volume and excitement in the stadium, but it's definitely something extra here," he said.

The Philadelphia Phillies finished the 2010 regular season atop the National League East Division with a record of 97 wins and 65 losses. They lost to the eventual World Series-winning San Francisco Giants, 4-2, in the National League Championship Series. With Cliff Lee back in the pitching rotation, the Phillies are counting on being a serious contender for the 2011 World Series crown.