If all goes well, Cubs starter Ted Lilly will be ready to pitch in April after having shoulder surgery Tuesday.
Bev Horne | Staff Photographer
Ted Lilly said he hoped to avoid surgery, but that his left shoulder wasn't getting any better with rest.
So Lilly, who emerged as the ace of the Cubs pitching staff this season, gave in and underwent arthroscopic surgery Tuesday.
Both Lilly and the Cubs said the surgery, performed by Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles, was a "cleanup," or debridement, and that Lilly has no significant structural damage.
Although Lilly won't be ready for Opening Day, the Cubs expressed confidence Wednesday he could pitch sometime in April. Lilly will begin a rehab process with range-of-motion exercises, but he said he won't begin throwing for four months, or until early March.
"I initially wanted to try to avoid it, go into the off-season without having to do anything," Lilly said Wednesday by teleconference. "I figured it would get better. It did not, even after all the rest. I just didn't want to go into the season kind of doing what I was doing at the end of the year where I was missing starts."
Lilly went on the disabled list in late July with shoulder inflammation. While on the DL, he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.
He returned Aug. 17, and things appeared to be fine, but he went 12 days between starts in late September because the shoulder acted up again. Even so, Lilly said he had no second thoughts about waiting to have surgery.
"If I would have known I'd be in this situation a month earlier and it wouldn't have gotten better, then I would have preferred to do it a month ago," he said. "If you're going to go out there and pitch, you're going to have to battle through discomfort and soreness. Sometimes they get better."
Lilly, who is entering the final season of a four-year, $40 million contract, was 12-9 with a 3.10 ERA in 27 starts. In three years with the Cubs, he is 44-26 with a 3.70 ERA.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry finds himself with a hole in his starting rotation for the beginning of the 2010 season, but he did not seem to think this latest development means there is any more urgency to retain right-handed starter Rich Harden, who becomes a free agent. Hendry's top priority this off-season - aside from trading right fielder Milton Bradley - has been to try to re-sign left-handed reliever John Grabow.
"We haven't made any decisions yet on who's coming back or not from the club we ended the season with," Hendry said. "This wouldn't alter our plans about adding another starter because Lew Yocum is one of the best in the world. If he felt that ... if the rehab went according to plan, the way Ted goes about his business, there's a good possibility Ted will be pitching in April. We certainly don't want to take that spot away from Ted if he's ready."
In other news, three of the four members of the Ricketts family (including front man Tom), the new owners of the Cubs, took a helicopter tour of the Mesa, Ariz., area Wednesday. Mesa is making a big push to keep the Cubs in spring training with new year-round facilities to fend off a threat by Naples, Fla., which is making a big push to lure the Cubs east.
Six different groups from Arizona made presentations to the Cubs.
"I'm a pretty confident guy," Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said during a news conference. "If we're judged on the merits, I think it's a slam-dunk (in favor of Arizona)."
The Ricketts family did not take part in the news conference.