The Cubs' lone All-Star representative this season, Lilly is close to returning from a stint on the disabled list that started on July 25 when he reported inflammation in his left shoulder. While on the DL, he also underwent minor knee surgery.
Lilly pitched five shutout innings Wednesday, giving up two hits, striking out two batters, and walking one. The Chiefs blasted Burlington, 11-1, and afterward Lilly said he was ready to rejoin the big league club.
"Everything felt good," Lilly said. "I was just trying to make pitches, nothing too tricky. I made an effort to use all my pitches and move around on my knee, which felt good. I was glad I got to come down here and (pitch) as opposed to pitching a simulated game."
Lilly ran into a little trouble at the start of the game. After striking out Bees leadoff hitter Fernando Garcia, Adrian Ortiz would single up the middle. Lilly, however, would catch a break as the next batter hit a grounder that tagged Ortiz in the foot while the Bees' left fielder was running the bases. Ortiz was called out and the batter, David Wood, was given first base and a single.
Wood stole second and after taking Nick Francis to a full count, Lilly got him to fly out to center. The left-hander would use 21 pitches in the first inning.
Lilly would not allow a hit the rest of the way, and only two runners reached base off him after the first inning. He threw 58 pitches, 45 strikes, and topped out at 88 mph with his fastball. Lilly needed only three pitches to complete the fourth inning, and seven in the fifth.
From the fourth to the fifth inning, he threw only one pitch to five consecutive batters and finished off his final batter of the night with his signature curveball, buckling the knees of Yeldrys Molina for a called strike out.
"You come down here and the guys want to be aggressive," Lilly said. "They aren't out there looking for a walk and I like that. I would want our guys to do the same thing if their guy was going to give them a lot of strikes like I did tonight."
Lilly was content with his start, but would have liked to have had more command of his fastball, he said.
"I would have liked to locate my fastball better," Lilly said. "I threw some other decent pitches. I was able to throw my changeup for strikes, which is something I haven't really been able to do this season."
Lilly is hoping to make his next big league start next week when the Cubs visit San Diego. He said he enjoyed pitching in front of the 6,118 fans that came out Wednesday.
"It was awesome," Lilly said. "This is special baseball. You watch the way these kids play and the energy they bring is motivating."
Before the game, Chiefs relievers spent time with Lilly, picking up tips and talking baseball in general. They praised Lilly's demeanor, and right-handed reliever Kevin Kreier said he was impressed with his work ethic during batting practice.
"I got to hang around with him a lot around the batting cage," Kreier said. "He was even running around in the outfield shagging fly balls with us."
Lilly's Rehab Goes Well
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