Could Ted Lilly Be Back Sooner Than Expected?

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Could Ted Lilly Be Back Sooner Than Expected?

Chicago Cubs

Started two months ago, all we’ve heard about Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Ted Lilly is that he won’t be ready to go until May, at the earliest. Lilly had shoulder surgery just after the end of the 2009 season, and information about his recovery has been hard to come by. Still, that May return timeline has been a relatively consistent theme.

Until now.

Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said there is not a clear-cut date for the return for pitcher Ted Lilly, who is coming back from left shoulder surgery cleanup.

Media reports have circulated that Lilly won’t return until late April or early May.

“I talked to Mark O’Neil [trainer] last week, and he said he is coming along fine,” Hendry said. “If he starts April 15 that will be fine. I don’t see it being anything unless there is some kind of setback that happens in camp. It was a real minor procedure. In fairness to Ted, we’re not going to rush him either. If he’s 95 percent on Opening Day then we will wait until he is 100 percent.” ESPN Chicago.

Now, far be it from me to read too much into lip service quotes from Jim Hendry, but am I the only one who reads that to mean there is a very real chance that Lilly is back before May 1? It seems to me that Hendry is saying the team is more optimistic now about Lilly’s return than they were just a few weeks ago.

Then again, the Cubs have never been particularly forthright with injury information in the last ten years, espousing blind optimism in favor of cautious realism. Hendry’s emphasis that Lilly’s surgery was a “real minor procedure” could simply be his way of deflecting attacks on his decision not to pursue a starting pitcher this offseason.

If Lilly is able to return in mid-April, the Cubs will probably elect to go without a fifth starter for the first two weeks of the season, using the extra off-days. That means that, while the Cubs are without Lilly, there will be only one question mark in the rotation (Zambrano, Dempster, Wells, ?) instead of two.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.