Everything is still going according to plan for recovering Chicago Cubs starter Ted Lilly, who threw 35 pitches to hitters – including all of the pitches in his repertoire – in a simulated game yesterday.
“I felt good,” Lilly said. “I was able to throw some curveballs, sliders and a few changeups. For the most part, most of the pitches I threw were fastballs.”
The next step?
“What I’d like to do is pitch in a game,” Lilly said. “Get some fans out there and umpires.”
Cubs manager Lou Piniella knows how eager the lefty is to get some real action but wants to talk to pitching coach Larry Rothschild and athletic trainer Mark O’Neal first.
“We don’t want to push him to where he’s rushing himself,” Piniella said. “We set a fairly doable timetable. I don’t think we need to rush that at all.”
Lilly isn’t just projecting his next start, he’s looking ahead to the regular season.
“If you ask him now, he’ll tell you he thinks he can be the Opening Day starter,” Piniella said. “Let’s be realistic about this thing.”
Piniella did say he was “encouraged” by Lilly’s outing.
“I wasn’t expecting him to be that far along,” Piniella said.
So, maybe Opening Day isn’t that far out of the question?
“Yeah, in Keokuk, Iowa,” Piniella said.
He was kidding, Ted.
There has been no date set for his return to the Cubs’ rotation, but the lefty could be back by mid-to-late April. cubs.com.
Lilly’s hope is to pitch in a Cactus League game in the next week and a half, and then he’ll likely stay back or head to the minors for a couple rehab starts.