The 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner said Tuesday he still feels some pain in his strained abdomen following his first on-field test of the injury and he has no idea when he will be able to get on a mound again.
That makes it possible Lee won't be ready when the season starts April 5 at Oakland.
Lee and manager Don Wakamatsu both said Lee's brief, light morning throwing session on flat ground went well, and Lee said the muscle feels much better. But he added, "I still feel it."
The Mariners' prized acquisition in a winter trade with the Philadelphia Phillies said he is scheduled to throw again on flat ground Thursday and every other day for now.
Wakamatsu acknowledged that given the team will be in camp for only nine more days, "it'd be tough" for Lee to be ready when the season begins.
The 2008 All-Star was examined by the team's physician in Seattle on Friday. He had an ultrasound and was given a platelet-rich plasma injection. The Mariners said then that he would be re-evaluated again this Friday. Lee doesn't know if he needs to go back to Seattle for that.
He said the muscle improved markedly from Sunday to Monday. This is his third abdominal strain in seven years.
Lee first felt the pain after he collided with Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Chris Snyder while backing up the plate during a game March 15. He pitched two more innings, until he was ejected for throwing inside to Snyder and then zipping a fastball over his helmet.
Lee was suspended for the first five games of the regular season because of that incident and fined by Major League Baseball vice president of discipline Bob Watson.
Lee said he has a hearing with the league on Monday by teleconference in Phoenix over his appeal of the suspension.
"That's all I can do," he said, adding he has no read on whether the appeal will succeed.
Wakamatsu said that because it happened in the collision with Snyder, the team does not believe this injury is a carry-over to the strain Lee felt in his right abdomen during a throwing session early in spring training of 2007 when he was with the Cleveland Indians. That caused him to begin that '07 season on the disabled list.
In 2003, while in Cleveland's minor leagues, Lee was on the disabled list from March 28 to May 20 with a strained lower abdominal muscle and sports hernia.
A DL start to this season for Lee is now a real possibility.
"It's the cautiousness. That has to come first," Wakamatsu said.
The manager compared his anxiety and curiosity over Lee to having a new Ferrari in his garage yet not being able to drive it right away.
"You'd like to drive it Day One, but ... ," Wakamatsu said.
It hasn't been a smooth beginning with the Mariners for Lee, who can become a free agent after his debut season in Seattle.
He underwent surgery on Feb. 5 to remove a bone spur on his left foot, which slowed his progress in spring training. He's been limited to just 5 2/3 innings so far.
This for a player who was a model of consistency last season, tying for the second-most starts in the majors -- 34 with Cleveland and Philadelphia.