Cubs' Lilly learning from hardships
Well-traveled veteran moving on from tough outing in NLDS
MESA, Ariz. -- The last image many Cubs fans have of Ted Lilly is seeing him hurl his glove to the ground after serving up a home run to the D-backs' Chris Young in the second inning of Game 2 of the 2007 National League Division Series.
"I was [ticked]," Lilly said.
It didn't take long for the Cubs left-hander to get over that pitch. But the experience has stayed with him.
"I got over it once I got home -- I definitely didn't forget it," said Lilly, who will start Saturday in the Cubs' Cactus League game against the White Sox. "There's still times here and there when I think about it. It's done. I'm aware of that. There's nothing I can change from that series or we can change as a club. We can learn from what we did and use that to help us.
"For me, I don't think I'll ever completely forget something like that," he said. "I guess I'm over it."
If it makes Cubs fans feel any better, Lilly had trouble sleeping for nearly a week after the game. He's replayed the game in his head a few times this offseason.
"It wasn't that particular pitch -- it was everything that leads up to that," Lilly said. "It's the walks before that, it's pitching from behind in the count before that. It's the hits. All the things that go into it -- for three, four, five days I thought about my approach going into that game and what I didn't like about it. As far as being over it, I'm OK. I remember it."
The Cubs lost, 8-4, in Game 2, as Lilly served up six runs, seven hits and four walks over 3 1/3 innings. What did the left-hander learn from the experience?
"I learned something we're always told, and that is, 'Don't change anything, continue to go about what you do the way you know how to do it and not try to do too much,'" Lilly said. "I tried to throw harder, and do some things -- throw pitches instead of just making good pitches. I tried to make every pitch a great pitch and the ball was flat and my command was worse, and I was overthrowing, and it led to a lot of problems."
Lilly has an interesting biography. He's been traded four times, once as a player to be named later. His full name is Theodore Roosevelt Lilly III, named that because his great grandfather was one of Teddy Roosevelt's "Rough Riders."
Lilly doesn't expect the legacy to continue.
"I think my wife has said it'll stop there," Lilly said. "If we have a boy, we'll probably try to come up with something else. I think three is enough."
Lilly has pitched for the Expos, Yankees, A's and Blue Jays. He's been sidelined because of problems with his shoulder. Yet, the last two seasons, he's won 15 games each time. Maybe now the 32-year-old pitcher is hitting his prime.
"I think I'm getting better," said Lilly, in the second year of his four-year deal with the Cubs. "I expected myself to win 15 games four years ago. I thought I should have done that. My expectations have been much higher than the results over the years.
"One of the things is I feel like I'm still learning so much about the game," Lilly said. "I have a little bit of experience, and I still feel I'm learning a lot in the game on a consistent basis, which surprises me. There's a part of me when I was younger, I thought I'd have it figured out."
Figured out what?
"What pitching is all about," he said. "You realize when you get older -- at least I have -- that you'll never figure it out. It's always changing. The hitters are always changing, you're always having to make adjustments. That's one of the things I've learned the last few years."
Lilly continued his Spring Training tune-up on Monday by throwing six innings at the Cubs' Minor League camp, with mixed results.
"I threw some strikes, I threw some balls, some hits, some outs," he said. "No walks. They took it easy on me."
Lilly and Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild have a good relationship. They communicate well.
"He listens as much as he talks," Lilly said of Rothschild. "Sometimes I feel like a pitching coach can tell me what to do and it's the right thing to do, but if I don't understand it, and I can't explain to you what I'm thinking and what I'm feeling, it's difficult to help the pitcher to make the adjustments.
"The tendency for a pitching coach is to just see what he sees and not what the pitcher is thinking and feeling," Lilly said. "I think Larry is very conscious of that and for me, I think that's crucial."
Lilly is looking forward to his second season in Chicago. He gets a kick out of the bleacher fans who cheer him as he trots in front of the bleachers during warmups. He says Wrigley Field is the best environment to pitch in.
"If you're not pitching well, they're [angry]," he said. "They care. That's all you can ask for. I couldn't expect them to be happy if I'm not winning or we're not winning as a team. They pay attention and they want to win, and as a player, you want that. You want there to be fans in the seats who are voicing their opinions -- whether they're happy or not, either way.
"Personally, I'll take that atmosphere over a place or stadium that's just kind of there because they have nothing else to do."
His goals heading into 2008 are pretty simple. Lilly wants to be as good as he can be.
"How good that is, I don't know," Lilly said. "How many games am I capable of winning, all those things are dictated by so many different variables. My goal is a simple goal of being consistent every day, preparing every day, doing things correctly, being prepared to start. It's kind of small goals. If I focus on that, I'll have good results. Instead of getting so far ahead of myself, my goal is to do it right today and that will lead to tomorrow."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.