Chicago Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly, who just welcomed his first child into the world, is somehow ahead of his recovery schedule from shoulder surgery, despite a viral setback a couple weeks ago.

“We want to keep him under the radar gun and not talk much about it,” Piniella said of Lilly’s progress. “He’s coming along really well. He’s had no setbacks whatsoever. He’s actually ahead of schedule.

“We feel pretty good about the possibility of him pitching some Spring Training [games].”

Lilly did not face hitters on Saturday. He had said he was going to throw a live batting-practice session this weekend. The lefty, who was projected to be ready in mid-April or May 1, has made up for the time he missed because of a virus.

“He’s ahead of schedule, that I can tell you,” Piniella said. “I haven’t talked much about him because I don’t want him to push him too fast.”

The Cubs have two vacancies in the rotation and are still sorting out the candidates. Piniella has hinted they would have a decision made around March 22.

“Let’s just see everybody around one more time,” Piniella said. “Let’s not rush.”

Taking it easy with Lilly is obviously the right approach – it’s a long season. But that said, the difference between a rotation with a healthy Lilly and without is tremendous. If he’s able to get back having missed only a couple starts instead of four or five, the Cubs will be much better off for it.