2010 Player Preview: Ted Lilly
I know we've all been the Mark Prior Watches, the Kerry Wood Watches, even the Aramis Ramirez Watch, all the towel drills and all the false starts so typical to Cub World. But make no mistake, Ted Lilly will come back in 2010, one-hundred-percent, as good as he ever has been.
Lilly, rumor has it, maintains a complex of hydroponic chambers in the basement of his lavish wintertime estate, in which he raises a type of sub-human creature. Several times a year, when one becomes ripe, he harvests the being, sucking out its lifeblood from its marrow. Whatever the reason, Ted Lilly has the biggest balls on our pitching staff, and if any pitcher is apt to recover fully and without reservation from offseason shoulder surgery, it is he.
He will come back, and when he does, he will throw strikes. He will challenge hitters, occasionally leaving too much over the plate. Balls will be struck in the air, and most times, the outfielders will be able to haul them in. Frequently, they will not. But since there won't be a lot of guys on the bases due to walks, the homers he gives up won't be as harmful on the scoreboard.
Or, to his psyche. Because Lilly is not some fragile little flower, unlike a certain former Cub pitcher with swollen calves and an equally swollen opinion of himself. Major League hitters have taken him downtown before, and they'll do it again. Lilly will just draw upon some store of bravado deep down inside himself, maybe from his intellect, maybe from the marrow of the sub-creatures he ravishes in his lab. But he knows that the real damage doesn't come from the first big hit you give up, but from the second, third, and so on. His job is to hold it together in the face of adversity.
Big league hitters are paid to hit. Big league pitchers are paid to adjust, improvise, to stay one step ahead of the hitters. Unlike Zambrano, for example, Lilly understands this part of the game, and having Greg Maddux around, a like soul, will only improve his command and his confidence in his own instincts.
It is ironic that Jim Hendry's best free agent signing ever was accomplished from his hospital bed after his infamous heart surgery during the 2006-2007 Winter Meetings. Alas, unlike all the other free agent signings, Lilly's contract has passed far too quickly, and 2010 is his 'contract year'. In the words of Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford, if you think he'll let it go, you're mad. Lilly will pitch this year, and when he does, he will pitch his guts out.
The only question is, when does Lilly's season start? Most reasonable people would consider May 1st ambitious, and this was before his bout with the Swine. He himself is still aiming for Opening Day, because he has the hot blood of subordinal creatures flowing in his veins. The Cubs Training staff, naturally, can't or won't give us a date.
Our offense will carry the day in 2010, and once Lilly gets out there, he will be excellent. The only problem is, when will that be, and will too much of the season be out of our control by then? I myself think not, I am as confident that he will come back in time, as confident as I was that Mark Prior would not.
But I will admit to you right now, that my hunch is based on nothing other than my faith in the man.