When you see an athlete wearing number 9 and Gordie Howe – or even Mike Modano – instantly come to mind, perhaps it’s a sign you watch too much hockey.
Yet, that was the thought as Ted Lilly trotted to the mound yesterday for his first pitching assignment in about two months. After starting off the season with an impressive 5-1 record over eight starts for the Dodgers, left shoulder inflammation sent him to the disabled list following his performance on May 23rd.
Although he only went two innings last night for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, he struck out the first batter he faced on just three pitches and proceeded to give up only one hit and one walk, without letting anybody past second base.
“I felt OK, (but) mechanically I’m a little out of sync,” Lilly said after returning to the clubhouse and icing his shoulder. “I was missing up on my fastball a lot. But, the ball was coming out OK.”
While rehabbing is never fun, the mental part could be even more difficult if he had to worry about what many players are dealing with this week – tomorrow’s MLB trade deadline.
Over the course of his 14-year career, Lilly’s been dealt five times. Now, protected by a full no-trade clause, he only gets excited when the topic comes up, knowing he isn’t going anywhere this time around.
“I think they want to win,” Lilly said of the Dodgers’ recent addition of infielder Hanley Ramirez and the notion that more help is likely on the way.
“To a degree, you kinda have to spend a little bit of money – or what you do spend, you have to spend as wisely as possible and hope that things turn out the way that you expect. There have been successful clubs out there that don’t spend a lot of money. But, they’re few and far between. So, fortunately, with the new ownership group we do have a little bit of leeway, where we can take some risks and be aggressive.”
Exactly what area GM Ned Colletti might target next – another arm or a big bat – could be a fools question, as the answer might be both. In recent days the Dodgers have been linked to Justin Morneau, Chase Headley, Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Dempster, James Shields and several other players.
That being said, for all those cities out there that share the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball, some hockey GM may want to call up his baseball counterpart and push towards the team trying to acquire Lilly because the Stanley Cup seems to be following him around.
In 2010, the Blackhawks brought it to Wrigley Field when the Cubs were playing the White Sox. Lilly took a no-hitter into the ninth inning that night.
Then, back in June, the Kings brought it to Dodger Stadium for a game vs the Angels.
“It was pretty cool to see the Stanley Cup Champions two out of the last three years,” said Lilly.
Truth be told, he’s not much of a hockey fan though. He claims it’s because he wasn’t exposed to the game growing up. However, he has played baseball in some of the most rabid hockey markets in North America – including Toronto, Montreal, Chicago and New York.
“I appreciate the game and I like the people that come out of that game,” he explained. “But, I’m sure if I had grown up in Canada and around hockey, I would love it.”
With the Kings new found popularity in Southern California, maybe there’s still a chance he’ll jump on board the bandwagon. For now though, the focus is aimed squarely on returning to the diamond.
“My guess is I’ll end up back here in five days,” said Lilly, referring to the Quakes. “I imagine when I report back to headquarters they’ll let me know where I’m going.”
When Lilly came out of the game yesterday he was spelled by another Dodger beginning the rehab trail as well. Rubby De La Rosa hadn’t pitched since undergoing elbow surgery last summer. Like Lilly, he looked good in his return too. De La Rosa went three innings, only giving up two hits (both infield singles), didn’t walk anybody and struck out three guys. He was also routinely hitting 96-97 MPH on the speed gun.
De La Rosa is roughly targeting a September return to the big leagues, while Lilly could bolster the Dodgers rotation much sooner.
“The health factor comes into play,” said Lilly. “And I think I’m going in the right direction there.”